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THOMAS RUFF
[b. 1958] German photographer
Photography pretends to show reality. With your technique you have to go as near to reality as possible in order to imitate reality. And when you come so close then you recognize that, at the same time, it is not. - Thomas Ruff - From the book: Face: The New Photographic Portrait by William A. Ewing

My images are not images of reality but show a kind of second reality, the image of the image. - Thomas Ruff - From the book: 50 Contemporary Photographers You Should Know by Florian Heine, Brad Finger

The people have to know what my portraits are like in order to behave in such a way that the result is one of my portraits. - Thomas Ruff

I received my training at an art academy, so what I produce is art. That’s what is artistic about my photographs. - Thomas Ruff

Photographs are still always depictions, it's just that for my generation the model for the photograph is probably not reality any more, but images we have of that reality. - Thomas Ruff

If things are the way they are, why should I try to make them look different? - Thomas Ruff

You cannot explain the whole world in one photograph. Photography pretends. You can see everything that’s in front of the camera, but there’s always something beside it. - Thomas Ruff

I believe that photography can only reproduce the surface of things. The same applies to a portrait. I take photographs of people the same way I would take photographs of a plaster bust. - Thomas Ruff

In photography, you always have both the medium and the depicted subject at the same time. - Thomas Ruff

I used to say that the picture has an autonomous existence apart from what it represents, or that it acquires a life of its own. Maybe when I said that, I meant thinking about how you make pictures, but the reality is still there anyway because there really was someone sitting in front of the camera when the picture was taken. So now, do we have autonomy? - Thomas Ruff

In a way I wanted to blot out any traces or information about the person in front of the camera. I also wanted to indicate that the viewer is not face-to-face with a real person, but with a photograph of a person. - Thomas Ruff

If you stand in front of a customs officer, you try to make a face like the one in your passport. So why should my portraits be communicative at a time when you can be prosecuted for your sympathies? - Thomas Ruff

I’m always present in my photographs as the author because I point to something, be it a face, a house, a star. I’m always there in the choice of subject and frame. - Thomas Ruff

I think that historically photographs may have been made in a naive and honest way, when photographers believed in the “pencil of nature” and recording what was in front of the camera. But photography quickly came to be used in a prejudicial way, losing its innocence and consequently its ability to communicate. - Thomas Ruff

Photography has always been a prosthesis for the human eye, in fact for man as a whole, his consciousness, his life. After all, at fifty, who can still remember exactly what he looked like at sixteen, what furniture used to be in the living room, what the street he lived on looked like. In this case, a prosthesis for memory. It can even provide you with an image of the great-grandfather you only know about from hearsay. - Thomas Ruff

The newspaper photograph is the stepchild of photography. It’s cut at random to fit into an article, captioned, and turned into an illustration of the text. - Thomas Ruff

Photography pretends to show reality. With your technique you have to go as near to reality as possible in order to imitate reality. And when you come so close then you recognize that, at the same time, it is not. - Thomas Ruff

A lot of people look through the photographs at what they want to see. They simply don’t see that they are photographic images. - Thomas Ruff

Of course there are many photographers who deliberately try to give the image a personal signature... That’s of no interest to me whatsoever. I’m just interested in the images that emerge. - Thomas Ruff

Actually, I still find it a bit strange that artists working in the early ‘80s would take their theoretical point of departure in philosophical texts from the ‘60s. I was always optimistic enough to think that artists would stick their noses a little bit further into the future and that the theoreticians would formulate things afterward. - Thomas Ruff

The photogram is a kind of “pencil of nature.” It’s cameraless photography—you don’t see the objects but only their shadows, which reminds me of Plato’s cave. - Thomas Ruff

A lot more happens between picture and viewer than you think... It’s all a matter of resolution. One could compare it to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal; the closer you look, the less you recognize. - Thomas Ruff

I’ve been interested in the genre of nude photography for a long time. What I find altogether boring is contemporary nude photography of the kind currently carried on by fashion photographers, who take supposedly interesting photographs of pretty models in some pleasant ambience. That’s something for adolescent 13-year-old Max readers. I’m 41, and when I’m naked I’m either lying in the tub or in bed with my girlfriend. My nude photographs are intended to be somewhat “more adult.” - Thomas Ruff

I don’t believe in the psychologizing portrait photography that my colleagues do, trying to capture the character with a lot of light and shade. That’s absolutely suspect to me. I can only show the surface. Whatever goes beyond that is more or less chance. - Thomas Ruff

With digitalization you can change parts of the picture very easily. It’s not serious if you do it for yourself, or within the arts, but in my eyes it’s a crime if you do it for the news. - Thomas Ruff

Most of the photos we come across today aren’t really authentic anymore—they have the authenticity of a manipulated and prearranged reality. You have to know the conditions of a particular photograph in order to understand it properly because the camera just copes what is in front of it. - Thomas Ruff

Why can people not just go and look at them and say: Aha, a large photo, a large head? Why can’t they just accept the picture as a picture and say: Thank you Mr. Ruff, you did that well? - Thomas Ruff

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