“Photography is a medium where one admires the work done by others…It is great to admire the work of other people, but it’s necessary to have one’s own distinctive style…I would rather be a mediocre photographer than an excellent imitator..the best thing I have ever heard about my work is when someone said, “that is unmistakably a Ralph Gibson photograph…” ~Ralph Gibson
During a taped interview with COOPH, Ralph Gibson shares a koan that was offered to him by Dorothea Lange, “Oh, I see your problem Ralph you have no point of departure.”
To which Ralph replied, “That’s true Dorothea. What is the point of departure?
“Well if you have your camera and you’re going down to the drugstore to buy toothpaste…you have an objective to buy toothpaste…you might then intersect something worth photographing. But if you just walk around the street looking for something to shoot you will never achieve very much.”
Ralph Gibson has expanded his initial understanding of a point of departure. It guides him to be looking for an unusual point of interest or perspective in an ordinary frame. To help achieve this point of departure, he notes, “Take your camera everywhere with you… If you have your camera in tow, chances are that you might come across a striking frame. But, if you just stand at the corner of a street and wait for something to happen, you will never get a picture.”
“To have a point of departure is not to go out and shoot. It’s to have a project in mind and going out looking for a shot that represents or showcases this emotion or concept that your project is about.” ~Ralph Gibson
“From now on, before I go shoot, I’ll consult internally to focus on one thing I want to capture, and have that point of departure. It’ll give purpose to my work and me being out there. The advantages are that I’ll learn patience, presence and a deeper sense of observation. This is a powerful and deep message…have a point of departure.” ~Ralph Gibson
- Find your point of departure….decide what to photograph. ”Is it the who or the what I’m photographing…?” What is it I’m looking for in…?
- Establish a visual signature…when you look at the work of somebody you admire that photographer has a visual signature to their work. It is because their way of looking is something you recognize…how they are perceiving the world…
- Don’t listen to the critics…if you pay attention to what other people say about your work, you’re not going to really know very much about your own work. You’re going to know what they think about it but you’re not going to know why you do it.
- Be inspired…the key is not to get too inspired. Staying inspired is really the number one question in the creative person’s life.
“I have investigated a lot of ideas—I love taking pictures of nothing, of ordinary objects, maybe even just the corner of a room. I love flattening and even reducing things. When I photograph flesh, I like to make it look like a stone. But, when I am photographing a stone, I like to make it look alive. I love re-contextualising the quality of my subjects.”~Ralph Gibson
Why not take a few minutes to wander about a gallery of Ralph Gibson’s work: http://www.ralphgibson.com/gallery.html
As I’ve noted before, I have enjoyed the process of sharing ideas and images. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts about point of departure.