Ruff’s Jpegs

Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff.

The review is written by Joerg Colberg (2009).  He starts off by saying that Thomas Ruff is one of the most creative photographers in the current environment but that some might disagree with this as his series of jpegs is not ‘orthodox’ photography.  Ruff’s own negatives from 9/11 came back blank so he took pictures from the internet but due to the low resolution decided to try and do something different by blowing them up leading to the pictures becoming pixelated.  A Google search shows some of the first ones the Ruff undertook with images of the twin towers burning on 9/11.  One can be found at this link:


These were initially shown as large prints at the Zwirner gallery but latterly have been turned into a book.  While Colberg acknowledges the photos as being beautiful he appears somewhat sceptical of the technique and seems to want ‘more’ but then is unable to define what this is.

Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel by David Campany

In contrast Campany seems much more positive about the value of what Ruff is trying to do with his photography.  He also sees the photos as beautiful but also believes they challenge us intellectually.  He feels they solicit both ‘individual and global responses’.  One that I found particularly beautiful from the images in the google search can be found at

Campany points out that Ruff is not the first photographer to adapt found images in order to comment or make sense of culture.  He points to the movements of Dad, Cubism and Surrealism.  He says the way the image is presented and the conversation around it may help with psychological and political health.

He talks about the organisation of this type of archival information and the difficulty of keeping some kind of organisation given the sheer number of images available not to mention the ‘unpredictability’ of them.  He speaks of other movements where the grid is paramount and then states this is present in Ruff’s work in a number of ways.  He does this by each photo being unique in its own way but also being part of a wider group (as in Exercise 1.4).  In looking at the images we compare them with each other.  Campany enlarges on this idea of archive in that Ruff has stated all his images come from the internet and asks if the internet is an archive or is made up of a series of archives.  Memory is also involved here both collectively and individually.

Campany sees that Ruff’s work shows the art of digitised images and believes that this may be the first time they have been seen in print form.  He also likens the art of blowing up the pixels as being similar to the old noise/grain of film and how in certain situations noisiness was seen as adding to the photo by making it more ‘authentic’.  However he doesn’t see pixels as having the same effect due to their grid like nature.  His exception seems to be the way in which Ruff has made the ordered turn into chaos or unpredictability leading to ‘tension or drama’.

Both the above authors seem to appreciate Ruff’s work as being beautiful but Campany seems to appreciate it more as an art form that creates tension and needs interpretation while Colberg seems to suggest that it is more about technique.

The course book suggests we should add one of our own compressed images so I tried it with this one of a Manx longhorn sheep:


I think this second photo gives more of the pixelated effect:


BIBLIOGRAPHY accessed on 31/10/2016 thomas_ruff/access on 31/10/2016.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s