From the Nude to the Stars: the Conceptual Photography of Thomas Ruff

Who said that photography has to represent the world as it is? Thomas Ruff sustains the exact opposite: for more than 40 years, he explores the limits of the relationship between the image and reality, stimulating unusual connections between the eye and the mind. The exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery retraces his steps, highlighting the photographer’s contribution to contemporary photographic language. Patterns of line and colour, urban architecture, industrial scenes, current events from newspaper archives, pornographic bodies and even the Martian landscape: there’s no subject that hasn’t served as a launching point for Ruff’s multi-faceted creativity, who uses his camera with the same liberty that a painter uses a canvas and brushes. The international public knows him for his series of portraits: straight close-ups on a monochrome background, which reveal no emotions. "Naked" faces that go back to the "zero point" of photography, inspired by German police photos of the '70s. For Ruff, in fact, it is fundamental to explore different spheres of the artistic image: science and astronomy, in particular, were among the frontiers of his research. Like in his recent work M.a.r.s, where he began a new genre with "imaginary photography": "Colouring and compressing the images taken by a camera orbiting Mars," - explains the photographer - "I created Mars landscapes that astronauts will see when they land on the Red Planet in 20 or 30 years. Imaginary images, but realistic at the same time."
Francesca Grego - © 2017 for Bulgari Hotel London