We used the work of Ralph Gibson as a starting point for a discussion and a stimulus for some work. What do these images teach us about picture taking?

Just looking at the figure polishing the cutlery we can see a ritual of the silver service restaurant taking place – that careful checking of the eating implements, maybe as they are laid on the table. It is the story of a working life and pride in a simple task but told very briefly. Gibson does not show us the whole figure, their facial expression, the table, the restaurant, diners …..in fact everything but the essential elements is stripped away. We see only what we need to see – in this case, the careful handling of the cutlery, the human involvement in the task.

Again with the portrait of fellow photographer Josef Koudelka (top right) we are in very close. What is important here is the eye and the intense gaze of a man who has spent his life observing others. Gibson tells us this story not by including more and more in the picture but by including less and less. There is no ‘tools of the trade’ inclusion of a camera or any attempt to show Koudelka on the street or relating to the environment. He captures the fleeting look of interiority which is enough to show us the power of his gaze.

Taking this from Gibson’s work we experimented with getting in close and paring compositions down. Using the face and figure we attempted to make more concentrated statements. I think the images from the session were certainly interesting and created feeling and atmosphere.

Many thanks to Claire and Martin who allowed their images to be displayed.

Perhaps a good experiment is to try including less in our pictures, cropping tighter and looking for the essentials of the subject. Good luck!