WHEN Thomas Ruff was young, he had a simple ambition: to travel the globe taking colourful pictures of far-away places for National Geographic. Then he went to art school. His teachers at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, where he began studying in 1977, were Bernd and Hilla Becher, a couple whose austere photographs of industrial buildings, from water towers to blast furnaces, were among the most celebrated images in contemporary art. They encouraged Mr Ruff to think more deeply about the history and genres of photography, its technologies and techniques, its limits and possibilities, and how it relates to other art forms like painting and sculpture. The simple ambition evolved into a more complicated one: to produce pictures which, whatever else they were about, were about photography itself.
A new retrospective of Mr Ruff’s work since 1979, on display at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, adds up to an enthralling and…Continue reading
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