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Ralph Gibson to be awarded the Leica Hall of Fame Award

The renowned American photographer Ralph Gibson will be presented with the Leica Hall of Fame Award for his life's work and be honoured with an extensive exhibition at Leica Camera AG's Celebration of Photography event on 4 November 2021. It will be on display at the Leica Galerie Wetzlar from 5 November to the end of February 2022.

Ralph Gibson, aus der Serie Gotham Chronicles, 1983–90 © Ralph Gibson, Leica Hall of Fame Award 2021, Wetzlar 2021

His visual language is as individual as it is timeless, and his style is unmistakable: in more than six decades, Ralph Gibson has created a multi-layered oeuvre that is also directly associated with Leica. He acquired his first Leica, an M2, as a young professional, and numerous other models have followed up to the present day. Even the camera, which he bought in instalments at the time, was to play a decisive role in helping him realise his photographic vision. He had acquired the basics of a solid training as a photographer in the US Navy and at the San Francisco Art Institute before assisting Dorothea Lange from 1961 to 1962 and later Robert Frank from 1967 to 1968.

Ralph Gibson, aus der Serie Quadrants, 1975 © Ralph Gibson, Leica Hall of Fame Award 2021, Wetzlar 2021

Gibson's style was strongly determined early on by graphic compositions with pronounced black-and-white contrasts, which even then seemed less applied than artistic. At the latest after he had worked for the renowned Magnum Photos agency in New York on a trial basis for a few months in 1966, he decided against a career as a commercially applied photojournalist or advertising photographer. Instead, he was in search of self-determined content and his own autonomous visual language. His work therefore exemplifies the change in American photography in the 1970s, which was now clearly more individualistic and less photojournalistic or documentary in orientation and, as a result, was also perceived more strongly and more naturally as an artistic medium.

Ralph Gibson, aus der Serie Gotham Chronicles, 1983–90 © Ralph Gibson, Leica Hall of Fame Award 2021, Wetzlar 2021

"Throughout my career, I have found that the occasional award releases an enormous creative energy in me. It spurs me on to try harder, to go further and to make greater efforts. And that just suits my state of mind at this stage of my life. So I pay tribute to my former colleagues who won the award. I'm delighted to be one of them now," says Ralph Gibson, winner of the 2021 Leica Hall of Fame Award.

Ralph Gibson, aus der Serie Quadrants, 1975 © Ralph Gibson, Leica Hall of Fame Award 2021, Wetzlar 2021

For a long time, Gibson remained an advocate of analogue photographic technology, but the use of a Leica Monochrom changed his attitude in 2013. After the very first shots, he realised the potential of digital techniques and so he effortlessly made the transition from darkroom to digital imagery. His vision always remained the same. Today, many motifs have long since become pictorial icons of photography. His clear, graphically perfectly designed photographs, with which he often gets very close to the motifs, are always immediately recognisable.

Ralph Gibson, aus der Serie The Somnambulist, 1970 © Ralph Gibson, Leica Hall of Fame Award 2021, Wetzlar 2021

They appear abstract, but without completely abandoning the reference to reality. In addition to precise object studies, surreal compositions, but also spontaneous street scenes, exquisite nudes are also part of Gibson's recurring repertoire. "Whether mysteriously emotional or clearly recognisable, whether analogue or digital, whether black and white or, more rarely, in colour: without a doubt, Ralph Gibson has created a multi-layered and touching life's work, for which we are delighted to include him in the round of our Leica Hall of Fame winners," says Karin Rehn-Kaufmann, Art Director and General Representative Leica Galleries International.

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Ralph Gibson, born in Los Angeles on 16 January 1939, learned photography in the US Navy and at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1960-62. He worked as an assistant to Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank. Gibson also made photographic history with the publishing house he founded in 1969, Lustrum Press. More than 40 monographs as well as numerous important works by other photographers and compendia were published here. Gibson is represented in the most important collections and museum collections, has been exhibited internationally and has received numerous awards, including the Leica Medal of Excellence in 1988 and the French Order of Merit L'ordre national de la Légion d'honneur in 2018. He lives in New York.

Portrait of Ralph Gibson © Ralph Gibson

Leica Hall of Fame
Images that have touched the world, moments that will remain unforgotten: Since 2011, Leica Camera AG has been appointing outstanding photographers to the Leica Hall of Fame - photographers who have made a difference with their view of the world. Testimonies to their work are pictorial icons that have burned themselves into our collective memory, that illustrate the human condition in a touching and timeless way. In 2011, Steve McCurry was the first to be honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame Award, followed by Barbara Klemm, Nick Út, René Burri, Thomas Hoepker and Ara Güler. In 2017 Gianni Berengo Gardin and Joel Meyerowitz were honoured, in 2018 it was Bruce Davidson and Jürgen Schadeberg, followed by Walter Vogel in 2019.

During the Celebration of Photography on 4 and 5 November 2021, not only will Ralph Gibson be honoured with the Leica Hall of Fame Award, but the opening of the new Ernst Leitz Museum after its redesign will also be celebrated. Among other things, the winning and shortlisted series of the Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2021 will be on display there.

Leica Galerie Wetzlar

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