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Photovision Magazine

Book Reviews
Ralph Gibson
Taschen, $30.00
ISBN 3-8228-6607-5

By Steve Anchell
From Vol. 2 No. 5

To paraphrase Henry Miller, author of Tropic of Cancer, all writing is autobiographical. In the same spirit, all photography is autobiographical. You cannot make a photograph if you aren’t there, and if you are there, then you are recording a moment in your life.

Even so, it is not often easy to see the life of the photographer reflected in their images. Ralph Gibson is a major exception. Viewing his work, particularly in this collection, Deus Ex Machina, one sees the life of one photographer as he has lived it.

It is all here, everything from sex to insanity. The life of a man who has both flown like an eagle and crawled on his belly like a snake. Possibly the greatest photographer to come out of, and survive, the Beat Generation; who has ably adapted his vision to each succeeding decade of his life.

They say that great writers have courage to write what is inside of them. Ralph Gibson has the courage to photograph what is inside him. He uses the Leica rangefinder camera as if it were a window into his soul. He is a master of shadow and light, coarse grain, and photos from the gut.

This book is a testament, in black-and-white (and some color), to every photographer who has ever tried to record the world in which they live. It is a signpost along the way that shows how it can be done—how it should be done. It is a must for anyone who has spent a life in photography. It is a must for anyone who is beginning a career with a camera. It is a must for anyone. SA