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(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)

Art

A look at the pioneering abstract nude photography of Ralph Gibson

@TomTaylorFO

When Ralph Gibson first ventured into photography, it was as an assistant. He continued in this role for both Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank as he developed his own keen eye. When it comes to not being behind the camera at the start of his photographic career, perhaps Gibson proves that the spectator sees more of the game, or the very least is privy to angles that the spotlight of being front and centre evades. 

His work has always involved fragmenting the usual frame and focusing on the narratives contained within minor details. As he has said himself of his approach, “I embrace the abstract in photography and exist on a few bits of order extracted from the chaos of reality.” This notion of order is something that is profound in his work. Subjects quite often seem to be on the move, but in the act of abstraction, he seems to render a vignette.

The results prove very evocative. As Gibson explains himself, “Even though fixed in time, a photograph evokes as much feeling as that which comes from music or dance. Whatever the mode – from the snapshot to the decisive moment to multi-media montage – the intent and purpose of photography is to render in visual terms feelings and experiences that often elude the ability of words to describe. In any case, the eyes have it, and the imagination will always soar farther than was expected.”

At the forefront of this mantra, is his collection of nude photography. His work may be varied, but even when skin may be sparse there is often an undertone of eroticism. As Gibson explains, “A photographer once said that beauty in women is endless. Perhaps it was I who said it. […] I love photographing women and could say that the form of the female body is absolute and perfect.” Thus, Taschen has celebrated his works in the stunning collection fittingly called simply, Nude.

In an interview with Eric Fischl contained alongside the images, Gibson discusses his unlikely photographic beginnings in the U.S. Navy and slow globally travelling development influenced his art and gave him a unique insight into the way he went about photography on his own terms. As he once opined, “The French have a different take on photography than Americans do. They consider photography to be absolutely parallel to literature. That often makes for a deeper perception of the work.” With that in mind, many would argue that Gibson is America’s foremost erotic photographer and the body of work he has produced for the collection make that hard to debate. 

You can check out a selection of his finest pieces below. All of which are displayed in the Taschen publication Ralph Gibson: Nude. You can find out more about the novel and get a copy of your own by clicking here

The erotic photography of Ralph Gibson:

(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)
(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)
(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)
(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)
(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)
(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)
(Credit: Ralph Gibson / Taschen)

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