EYV Part 1 Research Point Thomas Ruff – revisited

My tutor suggested that I re-visit my examination of the Campany and Colberg reviews of Thomas Ruff’s ‘Jpegs’.

See my initial analysis here.

I had added an image of my own to the exercise, compressed, as requested in the brief:

Pixel snip

I commented: ‘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 pointed out that the debate was ‘more one of medium specificity than narrative or affect’.

I had considered my image in terms of possible story (or absence of story) and speculated as to the possible use of Ruff’s technique to convey a particular mood. However, I understand that the reviews of Ruff’s work by Campany and Colberg focused on the form and technique of his images, not their interpretation.

I understand that Ruff’s low resolution images were used to highlight the photograph as a construction, re-creating the pixels as a visible part of the image. I am reminded of Rachel Smith’s presentation ‘The Materiality of Images’ (Smith 2016) in which she drew attention to the photograph as a two dimensional object: an object in its own right, distinct from the subject within it.

Campany fully supported Ruff’s technique as providing a new direction for photography. He saw it as developmental and he approved the re-working of archive images into new and modern interpretations.

Colberg, however, was less positive. He felt that there was too much emphasis on the photograph as a material object in Ruff’s technique, which was, he felt an inevitable by-product of digital photography and not a particular skill of the photographer.  He believes that the images ARE the technical process and not really photographs at all.

When I re-worked my image to show the pixilation, I understood that I was highlighting the digital nature of the image and therefore the photograph as a construction rather than reality. However, just as obvious grain has been used in film photography to create a particular mood, I felt that these compressed images, outside the fact that they are demonstrative of technique and form, can be re-read in the light of the impact that the visible pixels have on the final image.


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)

Smith R. (2016) The Materiality of Images [Lecture at Doncaster Cast 21 May 2016) 




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