I was driving along today and listening to a podcast and there was an interview with Ralph Gibson. That is one of the great things about the web, the ability to have high-quality podcast interviews with legendary photographers at our fingertips.
Two things stood out from his interview.
- How important it was to commit to the Leica camera at a young age and get to know it inside and out, and to have made that a life choice. He explains how a Japanese manufacturer offered him $50k a year to endorse their camera, and he refused. He’s a Leica guy through and through.
- How, when he teaches photography in this Photoshopped digital world, everybody can make an accurate exposure, but where they fall short is on creating a look, developing a style. All the works looks alike.
He discusses working with Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank, and how Frank’s work in The Americans just blew him away. He indicated seeing the work was both amazing and intimidating.
After 55 years of working with a film Leica, he finally turned to a digital, though he was skeptical.
I am quite intrigued by his forethought to commit to a Leica at a young age. At one point he talks about pawning them to make rent, because he knew he’d get them back and he was doing what he had to do to keep his photography dreams alive.
The part that I resonated the most with is how so much digital photography looks similar, and how difficult it is for many new photographers to distinguish their work from other photographers. It’s one of the reasons I still shoot film, besides enjoying the process that goes into making the photograph.
I’d recommend giving it a listen. It’s a good interview with a master photographer who chose his own path and made work his own way.