Marquerite Duras writes the introduction of “L’Histoire De France”, beginning with Dear Ralph Gibson and ending with:
“What a joy, Ralph, to write about your photographs; you should make me a book and I would write about the unknown in the world and in you, about the mysterious modesty of objects, about the enticement of the red of wine, the perfect insignificance of this lost object and all those fabrics, brocade and cotton mingled together, and the beauty of the buttocks of that woman who is looking toward the South, who can be found between Bocuse and Lumiere – everything mingled together, everything, in the great democracy of galaxies.
You have captured the beauty which happens to be France since you call it that, and this without any reverence, any prejudice. You have photographed what cannot be photographed: the spirit of wine, and ourselves in front of the spectacle of life. You are a savage Ralph Gibson and you are my friend.”
I stumbled upon this book yesterday in the library. I was familiar with Ralph Gibson’s black and white work but had never heard of this book or looked at his color images. Interestingly, at the library yesterday I asked where the art section was and they pointed me to the third floor. When I got to the third floor I asked where the photography books were and they told me that they are kept on the second floor in the technology section – a relic of a time when photography wasn’t considered an art form like painting or sculpture, and maybe there’s some still out there who think that? I can’t imagine you could looking at Ralph Gibson’s work. It is essences and mystery. Poetry.
Photography can be confusing because it can feel both real and abstract. I think that’s when it’s at its most interesting. It reminds me of some of the themes cubist artists were ruminating – multiple perspectives, relationship between space and time, abstraction. It’s not that his work looks like cubist art, rather, it hints at the idea that an object can be captured by multiple points of view. To me, Gibson and other photographers who tip toe the line of literal and abstract are saying: this is a way to look at this object, this is in the world too. And look at this next to this. This is the world too.
“…everything mingled together, everything, in the great democracy of galaxies.”
After I picked up this book from the library I went down a Ralph Gibson rabbit hole on the internet and really enjoyed this 30 minute documentary of his work.