Thomas Ruff


Contemporary German Photography


This is from a review: “Thomas Ruff [student of Bernd Becher], known for his deadpan portraits and gorgeous views of the night sky and architecture, is one of Germany’s leading contemporary artist/photographers. Among his recent work is an exploration of the internet, that parallel visual universe teeming with sexuality of every flavor and variety. He gathers from that virtual playground erotic and often pornographic photographs that he subsequently manipulates in his computer, making beautiful — and disturbing — artwork from visual material that, for better or worse, is probably more abundant than any other type of image in our world today.”

Vulgo: For his “Nudes” project Thomas Ruff downloaded pornography (thumbnails) from the internet and then Photoshop’ed it (them). Samples here.

Here is a snippet from another review: “Significantly, Ruff uses no camera or traditional photographic device in the production of these images, a process in which every step, from sourcing through manipulation to printing, is purely digital. Both literally and figuratively blurring the distinctions between pornography and formalist nude photography, Ruff also enhances the artificial atmosphere of the tiny ‘originals’ by boosting their image size exponentially. In the process, each image becomes disengaged from its source, forcing the subject into the background, and prioritizing its formal and aesthetic value. By altering these publicly accessible and starkly aggressive images as he does, Ruff simultaneously returns to them a sense of dignity and beauty, while heightening an awareness of representation’s own manipulative promises and illusions.”

Lately, Thomas Ruff has been expanding this ansatz by re-working (or should we call it re-mixing?) other images pulled from the web. Check out this page (and subsequent pages) for some samples. Note that you have to click on the thumbnails to see what he has done, as the thumbnails do not reflect the work at all. I find these works very interesting, and I’m curious to see where this will lead us. How many other people will pick this up? I’m also sure there will be many “Oh, I could do that” comments. I personally find this whole process quite promising.
(Updated post)