Surface and Depth

Research: Thomas Ruff ‘jpegs’

Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg and, if you haven’t already done so, use them to begin the contextual section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made by each writer.

Thomas Ruff (1958) is a German photographer who studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with Bernd and Hilla Becher. In 2009 he produced a photography book called ‘jpegs’. Having lost his own photographs of the 911 attacks he downloaded images from the Internet of 911 (plus other subjects), saving them in a JPEG format. The poor resolution of the downloaded images combined with enlargement causes them to appear as near abstract images.

David Campany, a British writer, curator and artist wrote an essay for IANN Magazine entitled ‘Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel’. He says ‘All photographic images come from archives. The very idea of the archive shaped how photography developed from its invention in the 1830s.’

Campany describes the internet (the ‘archive of archives’), the archive, the photographic series (used here by Ruff) and indeed the photograph itself as being ways to grid or organise the new photographic grain – the pixel. The viewer’s experience ossilates between seeing the real image and abstraction

Jörg Colbert is a German writer and founder of the photographic blog ‘Conscientious’. He expresses some doubts as to whether Ruff’s images can be considered as photography. Whilst acknowledging the beauty of the images he is concerned with the over-reliance on technique and the thinness of the underlying concept. By this Colberg means that there lacks a general context to the JPEG series and that they seem merely to be a series of beautiful images demonstrating the aesthetic effect of pixilation.

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