Thomas Ruff (born 1956)
'11h 00m - 75°'
Museum no. E. 380-1992
Ruff's images of night skies are perhaps the most extreme versions of his transformations of real things into strangely bland, abstracted compositions. The high gloss and precise quality of this photograph is an important theme within his work. It emphasises Ruff's view that to read anything into the image beyond its physical surface is simply a projection of the viewer (one that says more about the viewer than the photograph) onto his work. The constellations of stars and planets is a good choice of subject matter because so much symbolic meaning is projected on to the stars, which cannot be seen in their physical representation.
Thomas Ruff, along with other German photographers such as Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky, has produced visually challenging photographs which have called into question the ability of photographs to be interpreted with ease. Ruff has concentrated on producing technically proficient photographs which transform the subject matter into emotionally neutral, almost abstract compositions which resist any clear interpretation. His portraits, for example, are usually head and shoulder shots with the sitter facing the camera, and often blown up into monumental size. Every blemish and line of the sitters' face is magnified but, paradoxically, their characters are not revealed.
Ruff shows us that photography captures the physicality of the sitters and we cannot necessarily assume that a person's character is revealed by their image. He has had a similar approach in his photographs of buildings whereby he transforms them into geometrical solids, without reference to their human function. Processes and Techniques A gelatin-silver print is produced from paper with a coating of gelatin within which are silver salts; either silver bromide or silver chloride or a mixture of both. The gelatin silver came into general use in the 1880s and is still used today as the most common form of black and white print.
This photograph can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box EDUC 14.