Thomas Ruff – Portraits

Again, suggested by my tutor as an example of a collection of images that create a cohesive series.

Ruff’s portraits, at first glance, strike me as like looking at passport photographs. They are stark, expressionless, facing directly towards the camera, with plain backgrounds. With this in mind, it didn’t surprise me to learn that Ruff had studied with Bernd and Hilla Becher, famous for their stark industrial typologies.

Printed out in very large format, I can imagine how, with the lack of any displayed personal character, or visual context, the viewer would be forced to examine the details and colours present in the image.

That all of the images adhere strictly to this format, a typology of faces, if you like, you are left in no doubt that you are looking at a coherent collection, and not simply a group of random photos of faces.

I do feel that the size of these images is important, and is what differentiates the series from merely a bunch of pretend passport photos. At passport image size, you wouldn’t give them a second glance. In a very large format, they have impact, and demand you look at them.

This makes me ponder quite where the art is. Is it in the forcing of the viewer to look at the details of the ‘object’ in the image…. as  an attempt has been made to remove any aspect of ‘person’? Or is it in the taking of an unremarkable image, and making it very large?

This reminds of of the experience of attending live music venues. I have listened to some unremarkable bands whose recorded albums are, at best, mediocre, but when performed live, over an impressive sound system, create an energy that is exciting.

So am I excited by the band…. or the volume?

Same thing here?