Project 3 – Surface and Depth

Research point

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. Write about 300 words. If you wish, you could add a screengrab of an image from Ruff’s jpeg series, and one or two of your own compressed jpegs (taken on auto mode of course!).


Thomas Ruff – Jpegs

Thomas Ruff is a German photographer who lives and works in Düsseldorf, Germany. Ruff completed a book ‘Jpegs’ in which he explores the distribution and reception of images in the digital age. He used for his work images from the internet and archives which he deliberately enlarged and pixelated.

In his review Joerg Colberg wrote in his blog ‘Conscientious’ that Ruff’s jpeg images work amazingly well in book format compared to large prints of the original artwork. He acknowledges the beauty of the images but questions the concept behind it as it relies too much on the technique itself. He says that there is nothing wrong with producing beautiful images but there have been many attempts to convince him that ‘jpegs’ is more. He never managed to find out what that ‘more’ is.  He appreciates the beauty of the body of work despite the ultimate thinness of the concept behind it.

In contrast to that David Campany explores quite deeply in his review the history of avant-garde artists who could compare to Ruff. He points out that Dadaism, Surrealism and Cubism relied on found images and archives just as Ruff did. Also Pop, Minimalism and Conceptualism all prized archives as their ideal form. He points out that nearly all images are digital even if the origin were non-digital and Ruff introduces us to a photographic art we might call an ‘art of pixel’. He does that by not showing us the images on screen but as large scale prints. Analogue photography developed the aesthetic of grain which also implies ‘authenticity’. Pixels are quite different as they are grid-like, mechanic and repetitive and don’t have the scattered chaos of grain, therefore we don’t think of authenticity.  Many of the images show unpredictability and we looking at them from figuration to abstraction. ‘The result is a great tension or drama’ he points out.

Fire at Table Mountain

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