EYV Research Point Thomas Ruff

Thomas Ruff was inspired by images of 9/11 that he sourced on the internet after his own images failed. He found that these images were low resolution and he exploited the effect of visible pixels to recreate these images, and his own, in such a way to show the photograph as a construction.

Ruff’s ‘art of the pixel’ work can be seen in his book ‘Jpegs’: the title draws attention to the materiality of digital photographs.

Campany argues that Ruff’s work makes a positive contribution to the future of photography. He expresses his surprise that although all digital images are made up of pixels, few photographers really want to acknowledge this. He sees the technique as developmental in photography and believes that the introduction of jpeg artifacts into an image can create an effect of similar consequence to the grain effect sometimes deliberately exploited in film photography. He approves the re-working of archive images to create a revised social comment and modern interpretation of existing images:

‘Ruff has done a great deal to introduce into photographic art what we might call an ‘art of the pixel’'(Campany 2008)

Colberg is less impressed by Ruff’s technique. he sees it less as creative, than as an over-emphasis on the technical. He also criticises the technique as being less of a skill and more of a bi-product of the photography process. He goes as far as to suggest that Ruff’s images are not photographs at all. Rather, he describes Ruff’s work as ‘visual art’, and ‘graphic design’. Colberg agrees that Ruff’s photographs are beautiful but he feels there is too much emphasis on the form, and that these images would not exist but for the technical process. (Colberg 2009)


Campany, David (2017). Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel – David Campany. [online] Available at: http://davidcampany.com/thomas-ruff-the-aesthetics-of-the-pixel/ (Accessed 12 March 2017).

Colberg, J (2017). Conscientious | Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. [online] Available at: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2009/04/review_jpegs_by_thomas_ruff/ (Accessed 12 March 2017)

Here is a snip from one of my photographs, resized and saved at low resolution:

Pixel snip

I quite like the abstract image created by using this technique. Using visible jpeg artefacts to enhance or emphasise the story within the photograph is interesting. There is no particular story in my image of this tree, but I can imagine using Ruff’s technique to convey a sense of fantasy, or of drama, or of shock or disorientation, as in his images of 9/11.


My tutor advised me to re-visit this exercise.  Please see my revision of this exercise in my post: EYV Part 1 Research point – Thomas Ruff revisited




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