Thomas Ruff (born 10 February 1958)
The life cycle 124875
Important years of life
Thomas Ruff, one of six children, was born in 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach in the Black Forest, Germany.
Ruff studied photography from 1977 to 1985 with Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf Art Academy), where fellow students included the photographers Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth, Angelika Wengler, and Petra Wunderlich. In 1982, he spent six months at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. In 1993, he was a scholar at Villa Massimo in Rome.
In his studio between 1981 and 1985, Ruff photographed 60 half-length portraits in the same manner: Passport-like images, with the upper edge of the photographs situated just above the hair, even lighting, the subject between 25 and 35 years old, taken with a 9 × 12 cm negative and, because of the use of a flash, without any motion blur. The early portraits were black-and-white and small, but Ruff soon switched to color, using solid backgrounds in different colors; from a stack of colored card stock the sitter could choose one color, which then served as the background
1990: Dorothea von Stetten-Kunstpreis, Kunstmuseum Bonn
Because he found the effect of the colors too dominant in these, Ruff chose a light and neutral background for the portraits he made between 1986 and 1991.
The series Häuser was created between 1987 and 1991. Ruff’s building portraits are likewise serial, and have been edited digitally to remove obstructing details – a typifying method, which gives the images an exemplary character. Of these Ruff notes, “This type of building represents more or less the ideology and economy in the West German republic in the past thirty years.” Architects Herzog & de Meuron soon became aware of this form of architecture photography and invited Ruff to participate in their entry for the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1991 with a photograph of their building for Ricola.
From 2000 to 2005, Ruff taught Photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
2012 Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany
Exhibited for the first time at Sprüth Magers’s Berlin gallery in 2017, the press++ series is based on images that have been published in American newspapers and magazines from the 1920s to 1970s and that Ruff found on eBay. To produce these works, Ruff scans the front and back of each photograph and combines them digitally, taking into account the original image as well as crops, touch-ups, date stamps, scribbles and smudges.
After a number of collaborations with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the firm designed a studio building for Ruff and Gursky in Düsseldorf.
2017 Whitechapel Gallery, London