Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Artists: week 6 four

Thomas Ruff is one of Germany's best known living photographers. His roots are in the objective photography of Dusseldorf school. This was a group of photographers who were taught in the late 1970's and 80's by Bernd and Hilla Belcher and included photographer Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, Thomas Struth, Angelika Wengler and Petra Wunderlich. The Belchers, as we have seen, are best known for their photographic series of industrial buildings and structures, and were linked with Conceptual Art, with their depiction of banal scenes with cool detachment.

Ruff studied photography at the Dusseldorf Art Academy between 1977 and 1985. Starting in 1981, he photographed passport-like portraits in black and white, subjects between 25 and 35 years old. The images had the upper edge just above the hair, even lighting, solid colour backgrounds, while the individuals were shown with emotionless expressions, sometimes face-on and sometimes in profile. After 1986, he began to experiment with large-scale printing, producing images up to 7 by 5 feet. The following year he settled on his format of a full frontal view and balancing any dominating color by using a light and neutral background.

By appropriating this passport-style portraiture of young people with dead eyes and empty faces, he denies ability of the photograph to convey deep emotions of the sitter. Instead, by the use of scale, the portraits are only able to express the superficial, the surface of the subject, because as a viewer we become involved in the detail, looking at every pore, hair and blemish. Thus Ruff posits a photographic objectivity in the formalism of his approach with the monumental physical presence and deadpan rendering which overwhelms the individual personalities of those portrayed.

His subsequent series "Other Portraits" based on the Minolta Montage Unit, which enabled him to construct artifical faces from the combined features of men and women, exposed photographic objectivity to be a fiction. The success of the series were to consolidated his international reputation and give him the financial freedom to work on subsequent series of photographs. 

For me, it is the intensity of the gaze, both male and female which makes them such captivating and yet alarming portraits in their objective approach. They are and will be very influential to my approach to photographic portraiture.

Both image were using two front light at left and right, may have one reflector at front . That two background light at back.

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