Thomas Ruff is a preeminent name in the world of fine art photography. Seemingly plain and deceptively innocuous, his often disarming images challenges both the medium of photography as well as its audience. With the mundane and banal as his source material, Ruff utilises techniques such as digital alteration, fabricating composites, motion-blurring and over-enlargement to skew and warp the limits of photography’s presumed role as a purely descriptive medium. His most famous Nudes series enlarges yet obscures pornographic stills scoured from the internet, while the Anderes Porträt series comes across as unremarkable passport photographs but are in fact digitally-constructed androgynous faces that do not exist in reality. Playing with context and subverting our expectations of photographs, his low-fidelity approach is emblematic of postmodernity, exalting processed and reprocessed images with no original.
Born in 1958 in Germany, Ruff studied under the renowned Becher couple at the Kunstakademie Dusseldoft and later held a scholarship at Villa Massimo in Rome. A key figure in the canon of artists working in photography, Ruff has exhibited at Documenta 9, the Venice Biennale (1995, 2005), Bienal de São Paulo, Biennale of Sydney, and the Gwangju Biennale, Korea. His work can be found in major private and public collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Guggenheim Museum, New York; UBS Art Collection, Zurich; Hamburger Bahnhof– Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; The Art Institute of Chicago; Essl Museum, Klosterneuberg; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; and the National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen. In 2006, Ruff was presented the Infinity Award for Art by the International Center of Photography, New York. The artist lives and works in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Image: Photo by Hans Peter Schaefer