Born in 1958, Thomas Ruff is a photographer from Germany. He lives and works in Düsseldorf. In 1974, Ruff got his first camera and he began experimenting photographic techniques after his classes about the basics of this art. He gained influence from magazines of photography and took similar pictures as practice assignments for himself.
Between 1977 and 1985, Ruff learned photography at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf with Bernd and Hilla Becher. His classmates were Petra Wunderlich, Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky, Angelika Wengler and Candida Höfer. In 1982 in Paris, he was at the Cité Internationale des Arts for six months. Later in 1993, in Rome at Villa Massimo, he was a scholar. Taught by Bernd Becher, Thomas Ruff appreciated the influences Becher had on him and from 2000 until 2005, Ruff taught at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
Ruff uses various photographic techniques to display the extensiveness of his themes and subjects by employing digital and analogue exposures, computer generated imagery, photo from methodical archives, and images from internet and publications.
Initial portraits by Ruff were small-scaled and in black and white, however he soon brought in color by using an array of shades for backgrounds of his photos. The portraits he makes consists of subjects with expressions without emotions with a plain/single-color backdrop. In 1986, he began printing large-scale photos, and ultimately started making images 210 x 165 cm in size. Starting from 1987, Ruff began enlarging frontal view of subjects into colossal proportions. For such portraits that he made from 1986 to 1991, he realized that the use of colors is too dominating so he chose neutral and light backgrounds. Images by Ruff are somewhat similar to that which the police clicks once they catch a culprit. He then began experimenting with the portraits that he made, he combined the features of women and men and consequently a series titled Anderes Porträti came into existence.
Thomas Ruff uses digital editing tools to eliminate impeding details on portraits. This is a usual method used by many photographers and it gives a commendable character to photos. Häuser was a series produced from 1987 to 1991 of portraits of buildings. Eight years later, the photographer digitally manipulated photographs of Modern architecture made by Mies van der Rohe.
Ruff in 2003, published a photo book, Nudes with text by Michel Houellebecq, an author from France. In this collection, images by him stand on the pedestal of pornography on internet. These images were produced digitally sans the usage of traditional devices, not even a camera. He did another such series called Substrat in 2002-03 which was about Japanese anime and manga cartoons. In these works, he transformed the images in such a way that the original material is completely lost.
Another type of work Ruff did is photograms in which he depicts abstract spirals, lines and shapes in random formations with a range of illuminations and transparency degrees.
Ruff’s work has been the focus at unaccompanied exhibitions at well-known international venues. His recent shows include those planned by Münster; LWL-Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte; Castello di Rivoli; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga; Museum für Neue Kunst in Freiburg; Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna; Moderna Museet; Sprengel Museum Hannover in Germany; Budapest; and Műcsarnok Kunsthalle.
Work by Thomas Ruff is in custody of worldwide collections in museums, such as Essl Museum, Austria; Sculpture Garden and Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C; National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; Moderna Musee in Stockholm; The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and several others.