Project 3 Surface and depth

Research point  – Ruffs JPEGS series


Stated in the coursework

The question of surface and depth has to some extent been replaced by the debate between the virtual nature of the digital screen image and the materiality of film and print.

One of the properties of a digital image is its ability to be stored, retrieved and transferred across networks, and the file format of choice of a photographers is the Jpeg.

The visual effects of jpeg compression( the blocks of 8×8 pixels known as ‘jpeg artifacts’) are explored by Thomas Ruff in his book – jpegs.

Thomas Ruff is a German photographer born in 1958. He had been taught by the influential Bernd Becher at the Dusseldorf art Academy. He is often compared with other members of a prominent generation of European photographers like Thomas Struth , Andreas Gursky and Rineke DijKstra. From 2000 to 2005 Thomas Ruff taught photography in Dusseldorf

We are given two links below, which are reviews of the book and asked to use them to contextualise key points made by each writer.

Campany’s review was positive. He points out the use of the archives and implies it is a logical transition to pixelate images since painting had surrealism and cubism.

He states that mass produced imagery is now everywhere and even old analogue images are being digitised for archival use. As Ruff used images from the Internet, specific online archives and his own archive. Campany justifies Ruffs use

He implies that it doesn’t matter where the images come from as everything is archived or will be eventually.

Ruff has always worked in series. Campany’s opinion is that this has an effect on an image when it is seen as an individual or in the context of a group.  So you look at the image as an individual and develop an opinion, then this opinion changes when you see this same image in a series. The other images will make you re evaluate what ever was particular about that image. Making each image as unique but we see that uniqueness only by sensing the grouping of the series of which it is part.

He states that Ruffs has done a great deal to introduce into photographic art what we might call the ‘art of pixel’ allowing us to contemplate it at an aesthetic  and philosophical level, the basic condition of the electronic image.

Is this true photography?. That to me is the philosophical question. If the photographer has not gone through the physical act of taking a picture. Aesthetics is pertaining to the senses to the appreciation or criticism of beauty or art. This is Modern art.

The irony is that the jpegs exhibit is done in large scale photographic prints so that there is viewer involvement. As the resolution is too low for a website gallery.

Campany also highlights that this might have been the first time that these images might have been printed off implying that it is a digital age now.

In the past ‘grain’ was evident in analogue images but pixels are quite different to grain. Grain meant ‘authenticity’, a code to which it was evident that the photographers equipment had been pushed. Campany describes pixels as  grid like , repetitive and they represent cold technological limits. He suggests that attitudes towards digital art will change in the future because everything is becoming digital and we will only know that way.

Colberg on the other hand, even though he appreciates Ruff as an artist and photographer he expresses concern about the ‘Thinness of the concept of jpegs’. He comments on the size of the images on display saying they cant be justified and that the viewing was a ‘tad too pretentious’

Colbergs review of the jpeg book format was full of praise.. His last comment struck with me that he was suggesting that the artist needs to move beyond form and push the boundaries.  No one else before had put together pixelated images and pronounced it as ‘Art’.


In Conclusion

Campany sees the series as a representation of modern life, the rational and irrational together in a digital age.

Whilst Colberg thinks the concept is ‘too obvious’ and relies too much on the technique itself to justify the images.

I like the idea , its original and different with some good visual results.

I have pixelated 3 off my images, I particularly like the marigolds. It reminds me of old fashioned wallpaper. The other images are of buildings which I think work well pixelated.

Burj Khalifa


Source links and research articles.



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