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The Black Trilogy

The Black Trilogy

This volume reissues iconic photographer Ralph Gibson’s acclaimed “Black Trilogy”—The Somnambulist (1970), Deja-Vu (1973), and Days at Sea (1974)—radically innovative books that created a new model for the photobook genre.

Copublished with Editions Hazan
January 2018
This book is out of print and no longer available.
8.7 x 12.32 | 170 photos |

“Ralph Gibson’s Lustrum Press trilogy of the mid-1970s was immensely popular and influential. . . . Many of the pictures are amongst the most recognizable from the time . . . a surreal dreamscape, gently erotic, with a frisson of danger.”
—from The Photobook: A History, Volume 1 by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger

An iconic American fine art photographer renowned for his highly surrealist vision, Ralph Gibson is a master of the photography book, which he considers an art form in its own right. In 1970, he founded Lustrum Press, a publishing house dedicated to photography books, and inaugurated it with three volumes—The Somnambulist (1970), Deja-Vu (1973), and Days at Sea (1974)—that showcased his own work in an uncompromisingly radical and demanding way. These books came to be known as Gibson’s “Black Trilogy” and are now considered classics of the twentieth-century photobook genre.

Making a clean break with the prior conventions of the photography book, “The Black Trilogy” created a new visual syntax—page layouts, the pairing of photographs face-to-face, graphic and thematic echoes—that provided a unique language for photographic communication. It soon became the model for a generation of young photographers, including Larry Clark, Danny Seymour, Mary Ellen Mark, Yves Guillot, and Arnaud Claass. “The Black Trilogy” volumes went out of print long ago and have become highly collectible. This reissue, with a new essay by the distinguished photographer and curator Gilles Mora, includes all three books in a single volume.


New York, New York

Gibson’s photography has won numerous honors, including the Lucie Award for Lifetime Achievement, the French Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the Leica Medal of Excellence, the Photographic Society of Japan “150 Years of Photography” Award, and grants and fellowships from Eastman Kodak, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His work has been collected by some 150 museums internationally, among them the Museum of Modern Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; National Gallery of Art; J. P. Getty Museum; La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; International Center of Photography; Center for Creative Photography; and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Montpellier, France

Mora is the photographer/author of the photobook Antebellum. He has been the editor in chief of the magazine Les Cahiers de la Photographie, an editor with Éditions du Seuil in Paris, and the artistic director of the Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie in Arles. Currently he is the director of the city of Montpellier’s Pavillon Populaire. He was awarded the Nadar Prize for The Last Photographic Heroes: American Photographers of the Sixties and Seventies.


“Like a child who creates a medieval castle from a cardboard box, Gibson uses humble, everyday subjects—a pen, a shoe, a glass, a spoon, a mirror, a chair—to create dramatic and cinematic scenes.”
New York Review of Books

“Honored as a “Top Visual Book” by Publishers Weekly and the NY Rights Fair”
Publishers Weekly