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Ralph Gibson ? Nude


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

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Ralph Gibson – Nude

18 Apr 2021 7:03AM   Views : 867 Unique : 530


The last time I went into a bookshop and emerged with more books than I ought to have bought, one of them was a slightly foxed copy of a book called, simply, Nude. I’d heard of Ralph Gibson before, even seen his work, but this was completely different. It’s a tour de force, one of the books that makes me keep turning pages, and wondering why I bother (more about this later).

I want to contrast it with a Christmas present book that my daughter-in-law said was a bit of a gamble, and after going all the way through it in a sitting, I agree. It’s every bit as elaborately produced as the Gibson book, but it’s full of nudes by someone you will have heard of, David Lynch, film director. While every new page of one book is an idea that I’d thought reasonably original, shot a decade or three before I got there, and is technically impeccable, Lynch has produced the sort of thing that might have happened if you’d given a point-and-shoot compact to an adolescent.


Now, as a director, Lynch seems to pride himself on the obscure: he invented the Netflix series format before Netflix existed, with a plot that seems more strung out than the characters – which is saying quite a lot. I enjoyed Mulholland Drive, but I can’t précis the plot with any certainty. Twin Peaks failed to pique my curiosity – perhaps in the same way the The Blue Lamp wouldn’t intrigue an American audience…

But back to Ralph Gibson. There’s no sameness about the images. All are female nudes, but each is different. The thing is that as I go through it, every couple of pages I find myself looking at an image that uses a specific idea that is unusual, and which I’ve tried to apply in some way in my own work. And whether I’d seen the Gibson version somewhere before trying the idea or not, it’s indicative that someone else did it before I did, and did it better. No wonder it seems to be selling for more than I paid, if you can find a copy…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
18 Apr 2021 7:04AM
I suspect, if there are clichés in the book, they have become so since Gibson shot them...
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 29 Scotland
18 Apr 2021 8:17AM
With the talk of weird and obscure in the lead up ....... is that a huge feather, or a pocket sized model? Wink
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
18 Apr 2021 11:57AM
It's a huge feather. I think.

While I reckon that Lynch delights in being obscure (and may not understand what he means) it strikes me that Gibson is purposeful, and sometimes playful. Especially with feathers.
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.8k 92 Norway
18 Apr 2021 1:10PM
"Lynch has produced the sort of thing that might have happened if you’d given a point-and-shoot compact to an adolescent."
Could this be a case of BoJo's hair? Apparently random, but done with extreme care and very deliberate?
I have not seen the book, it should be said...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
18 Apr 2021 2:04PM
Are you suggesting that BoJ (I feel that's a more appropriate contraction: I suffer many contractions at the name...) is capable of art?

Seriously, Lynch takes a couple of the concepts (focussing in places where you don't expect, making it unclear what part of the body is in the image) and makes a whole book of it, without any of the often-biting technical quality that Gibson manages. So it's a tome with a trendy plastic dustjacket that's full of large, grey and out-of-focus pictures. I think it would not be published if the perp was a mere mortal...

That's a value judgment, and I may be utterly missing the point. But I suspect not!
saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.8k 92 Norway
18 Apr 2021 2:37PM
John, I would never stoop to suggest that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is capable of anything artistic nor creative - except in his explanations, of course, then he is the master of creative responses...
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
18 Apr 2021 3:38PM
We are as one, Malc.

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