Dear Ralph Gibson

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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.

 

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The Many Lives

I have both strong analytical tendencies and strong creative tendencies and I’ve noticed how that affects my digital lives. I quit Facebook a few years ago when it flat out lied to me about my husband “liking” a company’s brand page that I know and later confirmed he did not “like”. But something had been gnawing at me for a while about Facebook – that it didn’t feed my analytical or my creative side. Twitter, on the other hand, I found fed my analytical side. I intuitively used Twitter, and still mostly do, as a place to catalogue interesting articles I’ve read regarding a wide variety of topics. Now, I intertwine some poetry in there but I find that feels forced (and it’s never felt intuitive to share photography on Twitter).

Instagram, for me, has always been a wonderful source of creativity – I follow photographers and artists around the world and post my own images and writing. That’s been intuitive as well. Recently, I’ve started to incorporate my analytical side into Instagram, posting thought-provoking articles. And that sometimes feels forced – like I’m an interloper. I’ve long been jealous of people who are consistent across different platforms, and I struggle to understand why I can’t. I often think about quitting both. But then I think that social media is not the culprit of this confusion, it’s only an exacerbater. Isn’t that what technology essentially is? An extension of ourselves? Phantom limbs reaching out further and faster for things we want or think we want.

So, really, I should be looking at why I’m reaching. What am I reaching for? A place to be both? How to be both? If I’ve learned anything it’s that there is not a manual out there for this kind of thing. There are books and interviews and poems and pictures that help. But I know that this is the messy living thing – the thing that I can’t avoid, although I try, by signing in to Instagram or Twitter. A reach for something that isn’t there. Because that’s the other thing about technology – you can use it to reach but that doesn’t mean the answer is out there.

At the Museum

People are taking pictures of framed pictures.

People are taking pictures of themselves in front of framed pictures.

People are taking pictures of themselves.

I am taking pictures of people taking pictures of themselves in front of framed pictures.

I am not aware of anyone taking pictures of me although I might have slipped into the background of a stranger’s picture.

Maybe there is a chance that I slipped into a stranger’s picture as I was taking a picture of people taking pictures of themselves in front of framed pictures.

Feelings

Maybe every feeling is different. There isn’t sad but sad with a bit of happy or sad with a bit of tired. Two parts this, one part that. Three parts this, two parts that. Concoctions. Shades of feeling. Feelings as colors. We are artists painting the world with feelings.