Reviews by Campany and Colberg on Thomas Ruff

There were four points that stood out to me in Campany’s review of Thomas Ruff’s work that appeared in IANN magazine no.2 @ 2008.
The first was “It’s potent ability to solicit individual and global responses that cannot be entirely reconciled”, this is what I felt when first viewing his work; is it Photography, art or just a good printing job ?
The second was his questions about the information we now have at our fingertips , how it affects our lives and more importantly how it shapes our perception, morals and desires.
He also questions what we mean by ‘from the internet’? Is the internet an archive” ? , he goes on to say “In fact Ruff tells us they are from the internet”, meaning Ruff’s images.
My take on it is this, the internet is the mother of all archives; a Pandora’s box of mankind’s best and darkest thoughts and achievements.
The last point he makes is about how Ruff presents his work using very large prints that are beyond what is normally excepted for quality images i.e pixelated.

In Colberg’s review that appeared in his blog “” I only took one point of view and a good quote from Ruff himself.
He says that Ruff is possibly “one of the most creative and certainly inventive photographers of our time” and that the more traditionalist photographers could question whether it is indeed photography at all.
He also has a  quote from the Artist himself that was an Excerpt from a conversation with Max Dax, Dreissig Gespräche, edition suhrkamp, 2009; telling how he actually came up with the concept of his jpegs during his time in New York city the week of the 9/11 attacks.
Thomas Ruff has done similar work using images from NASA entitled M.A.R.S .
On a personal note I prefer his more abstract art as I find his jpeg and mars series to be too much like Andy Warhol’s work and it’s hard to compete with Warhol.


More thoughts on framing.

Curator John Szarkowski (1925–2007) found that photography is a decision about what to include and what to leave out.
This he surmised leads to a photographer concentrating on the edges of a frame and the shapes this creates. (Szarkowski, 2007, p,4 ).
Looking at his pictures of ” The school house, 1949″ and “From a country elevator, 1957” I can agree to a certain degree.
Where I diverge from his thought is when you see too much concentration on the edges produced by Alfred Stieglitz’s cloudscapes, the Equivalents for example.
Although looking hard at the edges will reap rewards I feel concentration is more than the edges deserve, after all the subject must come first.

My take on framing and cropping images.

The following definitions are from the on-line

Cambridge Dictionary.

Frame :

a border that surrounds and supports a picture, door, or window.

Crop :

to remove some or all of the edges from a picture, leaving only the most important part.
To me Framing or the frame of an image is the whole that the photographer wants you to view, it contains all the elements they think are important and none that aren’t.
Cropping an image is a way to eliminate unwanted elements or distractions and also a means to reframe the image to something more pleasing such as a Dutch tilt or reframing the subject to follow the rule of thirds.
Cropping an image also reduces the image quality some, where as framing does not.
To me cropping is a useful technique as long as you don’t find yourself using it on every image.
Framing has to be done with deliberation if possible, even photo journalists, sports and wildlife photographers try to avoid cropping if they can as editors are increasingly accepting only unaltered JPEG’s .

Exercise 1.4 Frame

Brief :

Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the viewfinder grid.

Don’t bother about the rest of the frame! Use any combination of
grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.
When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame, not just the part you’ve composed.

Process :

For this exercise I again used a Nikon D5200 with the 18-55mm kit lens.

I also tried to keep the ISO as low as I could to retain quality in the images.

I processed in adobe’s Light room  CC using a little luminance and in some cases of severe image distortion I used their perspective correction which leaves a lot to be desired but is better than the original.

Pictures :

All of these Photographs were taken of W.W 2 bomb damage of the Victoria and Albert museum, London and Brompton  Cemetery; Chelsea.

Here the Girl in the lower left lends a sense of proportion to the damage.

Just glad I wasn’t around during the blitz.

Another view of the entrance.

The whole length of this building is marked by shrapnel.

Window surrounds.

side of the museum.

Top of another window.

Judging by the inscription this fellow must have made quit an impression on his peers.

This headstone lies directly across from the previous one.


Analysis :

With this subject matter the placement of the holes gouged by a W.W 2  bombing raids shrapnel didn’t seem overly critical within the frame.

Some did work better than others, such as those with people in them to lend a sense of scale and the side view showing the how much of the building was affected.

On a technical note you really need a tilt and shift lens for this subject to look right,   perspective correction still leaves the image looking distorted but is better than the original.


Reflections :

This exercise felt and to some degree does still feel contradictory to me.

Why would you compose in a fraction of your view finder only to assess

the whole image.

It seems to me like the reverse of cropping an image, you’re adding unwanted or unexpected elements.

When I saw these marks in the building I thought it dove tailed nicely by combining the previous exercises of point and lines.

As you can see below in the proof sheet, these images do work on an individual basis and as a set.



Exercise 1.3 (2) Line

Brief :

Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space.

To avoid the effects of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down).

Modern architecture offers strong lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more abstract compositions.
Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3. How do the different lines relate to the frame?

There’s an important difference from the point exercises: a line can
leave the frame.

For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition
too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and straight out of the picture. It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no way back into the picture except the point that it started from.

So for photographs containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it’s important that they lead somewhere within the frame.

Process :

Unlike the previous exercise I tried to flatten the pictoral space using perpendicular lines.

Again using my trusty 18 – 55 mm zoom and D5200.

Photographs :

The lines of the tarp stop your view going any further than this very patient BBC camera man who explained and showed me how awesome his gear was.

Taken near the Albert memorial……… Peter Pan!!!!

What I like to call the Liquorice all sort building in Hammersmith.

Another view of this crazy building.

No, it’s not the lens; this building looks like this to the naked eye.

Close up of an electronic billboard.

Another flattening perspective.


Research and Analysis :

Not much research to do for this as the effects are obvious to most people even if they don’t conciously think about it.

The leading lines of  exercise 1.3(1) work very well at telling a story, rather like a novel; you have a beginning, middle and end.

The beginning is the bottom of the frame and the end is the top, I feel there must always be a point of interest on or at the end of the leading line otherwise it leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

It’s even worse with diagonal lines as they get you to leave the frame before the end, rather like those movies that leave you to make up what happens as the curtain drops; totally unsatisfying.

The photo’s with perpendicular lines work well for abstract subjects and for placing something interesting that doesn’t necessarily  have to lead you anywhere, they just are.

A good example of this is the shadow of a walking girl that reminded me of a scene from Peter Pan.

The building I liken to a liquorice all sort is very interesting, all the lines converge in some way as the building is built with the wings at varying widths and heights, it’s also one that people walk past without really noticing; but when someone points it out there’s a type of epiphany that occurs.

Reflections :

I enjoyed these two exercises both the places and some of the people I met.

The BBC camera man was awesome, despite setting up for coverage of the boat race he was very patient and showed me how his gear worked; I want that image stabilisation he has, any one want a kidney; only £40,000.


Auto mode photography.

I understand that the OCA want you to use auto mode so that you can concentrate on form, lines and technique.
I have my camera set to flexible program mode as my Nikon very often focusses on the wrong area.
I find auto mode constraining rather than liberating, nothing worse than getting a good shot ruinned by being out of focus.
Having said all that I do switch my camera to auto before turning it off just incase something pops up in front of me but that’s it.
these two photo’s are a case in point, the ice bucket challenge photo only gave a few seconds notice; literally point and shoot and hope the camera caught it, which it did.
The other is the “kind” photo in my Square mile series where it focussed on the womans shoulder.
Overall I prefer Aperture priority over the others.

Ice bucket challenge.


The kind.

Exercise 1.3(1) Line

Brief :

Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth.

Shooting with a wideangle lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within the frame.

The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to
the line.

Process :

For this exercise I went to such diverse places as bike stands, parks and stately homes.

Again I used my trusty 18 – 55 mm zoom and shot mainly hand held in Programme mode rather than full automatic mode as auto mode is more hit and miss as to where it focuses.

Pictures :

The classic use of a leading line used to draw your eye to the couple at the end of the path.

A most wonderful hot house.

Architects and landscapers are great studies in line and form as in this staircase on a stately home.

Shot close to the wall to extenuate the effect of a leading line.

The use of closely spaced objects to act as a leading line.

Rider in pink by Tejvan Pettinger, Cycling magazine 2017.

Ledger News  Library Image, California USA.


These last two photographs illustrate the direction my eye takes when viewing the pictures.

Research and analysis :

For this exercise I examined many Photographers take on leading lines especialy Eugene Atget and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
The depth created by lines and the overlapping elements of Paris street photographer Eugene Atget to me is more a pictoral history or record of Paris before it became too developed than art, athough there are artistic elements to his work, it reminded me more of Packards photography recording rural Oxfordshire life at the turn of the 1900’s.
I disagree with the oca text that a photo appears transparent and that you look through it at the world., I believe that the camera is more of a window through which the photo is the view outside.
I also believe that the use of lines and other compositional elements and techniques can transform an image into more than that, an image more like a painting; a work of art if you will.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s impact with the Bauhaus school of thought and his encouragement to his students to use high viewpoints to create flat and abstract images is to me very interesting and something I was naturally doing without schooling on the subject.

Reflections :

Leading lines was one of the first photographic elements I learned once I started to get more serious about photography.

So it was no surprise to me that I felt comfortable with this exercise.

I am also getting better at reflecting upon my work and also at researching the different subjects.

Here in lies the rub with my train of thought on studying great Photographers works, they’re great for inspiration but where does your art or style start and where does theirs end ? and is this really important ?
This is something I’m going to ponder more on as I progress through the course.