Campany opines that Ruff’s art offers specific kinds of pleasures to the viewer, both on a creative and the cognitive front. He describes Ruff’s work as being impassive, unemotional, deliberate, curious, and unorthodox, yet surprisingly beautiful at times. His images are intimate and alien at the same time to our collective understanding of the photographic order. He believes his art amplifies our understanding of photography as an image form that is both public and private, anonymous and personal. He emphasises Ruff’s work to possess a powerful propensity to seek individual or global responses that cannot be completely agreed upon.
He reiterates the importance of archives and how the very idea of the archive has shaped the development of photography since its inception in the 1830’s, especially now as the world’s archives are themselves turning towards digitally archiving and redistribution via the worldwide web. In Campany’s words, “The archival grid has been art’s quasi-bureaucratic way to mimic and estrange the modern regimes of the image.” All images that we see in books or on the internet are digitised, even if their origin was not. in that way he believes Ruff has done a great job to introduce “art of the pixel” into the photographic art, allowing us to reflect upon the basic shape of a digital image both on an aesthetic as well as philosophical level.
The pixel has replaced the grain of photographic film, uniting all photographs into a “homogenous electronic continuum.” The pixel might not evoke authenticity in our minds as film grains did, but Thomas Ruff’s JPEGS seems to be changing that – one pixel at a time.
Colberg believes that while Ruff might be considered as one of the most creative and inventive photographers of our times yet he is of the opinion that besides a visual appeal there is nothing beyond to understand the concept behind his work. He talks about how the idea of “JPEGS” came into being for the artist when his reel of photographs he took at the time of 9/11, the attack on the World Trade Centre, came back as blank negatives from the lab. He downloaded a lot of images of it from the web, most of them being iconic, but of terribly low resolution. He then began to modify these images his way and as what resulted was a series of ‘Terribly beautiful’ images – the idea behind “JPEGS.”
Though Coelberg does not deny the enormous visual appeal of some of these images, he does question the concept behind them depending a bit too much on the technique itself. He questions anything else being there. Though he finds nothing wrong with images that are beautiful and he is fine with that but he is just not fine with the attempts to convince him that “JPEGS” is more than that. According to him he never managed to find out what is that ‘more?’ He looked to understand it more by the text in the book and at various stages got excited that it was leading somewhere, only to be disappointed when the thought was abruptly ended by the author.
He understands the fact the images on the web have low resolution, and enlarging them produces funny patterns and that photography has changed through its use online but all that is pretty obvious. Whereas on one hand he is appreciative of Ruff’s willingness to push the limitations of photography and its wider implications and the book, he is not convinced of the inadequacy of the concept behind it.
Both the critics have offered a totally different review of the book. In my personal opinion, I am intrigued by the creativity and methodologies adopted by Ruff to explore the medium of photography. It makes me interested, piques my curiosity and opens up my mind to the limitless possibilities that one can explore in this medium. Its definitely a great research point to start one’s photographic journey with and makes me believe strongly that limitations are just a creation of one’s mind and if you truly want to explore, the opportunities are boundless. My research on Thomas Ruff’s work can be found here
Fig 1-3 Campany, D. (2004). Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic Of The Pixel | AMERICAN SUBURB X. At: https://americansuburbx.com/2014/01/thomas-ruff-aesthetic-pixel-2008.html (Accessed 07/05/2020).
Campany, D. (2008). Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic Of The Pixel – David Campany. At: https://davidcampany.com/thomas-ruff-the-aesthetics-of-the-pixel/ (Accessed 07/05/2020).
Colberg, J. (2009). Conscientious | Review: Jpegs By Thomas Ruff | Jmcolberg.com. At: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/2009/04/review_jpegs_by_thomas_ruff/ (Accessed 07/05/2020).