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Design By Humans
Published On: Thu, Dec 6th, 2012

THE SEX FILES: Ralph Gibson’s Nude

Don’t ask me to make the distinction between pornography and erotica; I’m not so sure there is one. You can see a picture of a naked lady in one instance and it is considered high art in another instance. With not many changes to that image, except for just possibly where it’s placed, that picture might be considered filthy naughty stuff. Like I say, I have no idea what makes what, but I can tell you when I come across a picture of a naked lady that I like and I come across lots of them in Ralph Gibson’s new book Nude.

Gibson studied photography in the Navy, than further at the San Francisco Art Institute, then began his professional career as assistant to Dorothea Lange and Robert Frank. He has traveled the world culling inspiration and his photographs are in over 150 museum collections around the globe. Nude is a testament to the man’s work, another in a long line of luscious Taschen art tomes-Gibson’s first book for Taschen in a decade-a mostly black and white collection (Gibson’s explains his take on black and white verses color as well as a few other points in this video) featuring long looks at the equally long lines of female hips-one of my personal favorite areas to see in photos-naked bare fronts and occasional round-the-back-of-their-front bottoms.

Other than a brilliant Eric Fischl interview with Gibson at the beginning of Nude, these 169 pages are filled with Gibson’s expert captures. Now there’s a lot of the same kind of pictures here-similar poses, the same body parts exposed and lovingly shot-in fact it’s not until about half way into Nude that it seems to me that the shots change up a bit. But unquestionably, Gibson is a master and this book is yet another beautiful edition from publisher Taschen, whose store you can visit at 354 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA as well as in NYC at 107 Greene Street (to name just two locations…this past Tuesday Gibson had an in-store signing at the NYC store.)

But I find looking at Nude that the finer point of what is and what isn’t erotica, pornography, etc. slips into my thoughts. If the photographer (or the writer, or the sculpturer, etc.) is expressing a truth as he or she sees it, (which is the point of art after all, right?) does it matter what we call his or her art? Be it pornography, a well-crafted photo essay or a punk song, if whatever it is moves you and it’s a healthy expression of what the maker wanted to say, call it whatever you like I say; for some would certainly call Nude pornographic given its subject matter. Taschen itself doesn’t seem to make the distinction in what they produce of this kind of subject, from books like Nude to the wildly popular “Big Book Of” series with titles like The Big Butt Book and The Big Penis Book to Liz Earls’ Days of the Cougar ( see my interview with the lady in a previous SEX FILES here) so I won’t even try.

I just hope you might check out Nude as you should anything else that tickles your fancy (whatever you happen to call your fancy these days) no matter how it is labeled or in what form it appears.

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THE SEX FILES: Ralph Gibson’s Nude