The oeuvre of Thomas Ruff belongs to a tradition of German photographers directly indebted to the conceptual aesthetics and teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose unique artistic approach turned to the original New Objectivity project and adapted it to the eighties. Ruff shared similar conceptual concerns and approaches with his colleagues at the Düsseldorf Kunstakedemie, who included Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte and Thomas Struth. An obstinate user of large-format cameras, Ruff adopts a cold style, his gaze is as neutral and disaffected as possible, and his flat and technically impeccable images are rich in details, evincing his formal concern with bareness and pure captures.

Under the generic name of the School of Düsseldorf, these artists reinvented the long standing tradition of genres such as architectural photography and portraits, and it was precisely in the latter that Ruff burst on to the art scene. His faces, enlarged to an overwhelming scale, proved the absolute impossibility of a sensitive emotional approach to reality and ended up revealing the crisis of the scientific paradigm derived from Positivism, to be precise, the systematisation suggested by Galton and Bertillon in the late nineteenth century.

In spite of obvious changes in his subject matter—that ranged from portraits, peculiar nocturnal visions and emblematic buildings to astronomical constellations, pornographic nudes, advertisements re-photographed from the Internet and industrial objects—and even though he has occasionally made use of digital manipulation in order to eliminate superfluous details, the truth is that Thomas Ruff's essential approach to his themes has remained unchanged.
ma.r.s. 09 II ma.r.s. 09 II, 2013. C-print. 255 x 185 cm ma.r.s 08 II ma.r.s 08 II, 2012. C-print. 255 x 185 cmma.r.s 08 III ma.r.s 08 III, 2012. C-print. 255 x 185 cmma.r.s 07 III ma.r.s 07 III, 2013. C-print. 255 x 185 cmma.r.s 05 III ma.r.s 05 III, 2012. C-print. 255 x 185 cmjpeg ca04I jpeg ca04I, 2004. C-print. 278 x 188 cm 3149 3149, 2003. C-print. 148 x 113 cm [Ref# 38156] 1301 1301, 2003. C-print. 146 x 113 cm [Ref# 38154] 3138 3138, 2003. C-print. 148 x 113 cm [Ref# 38155] 1783 1783, 2003. C-print. 148 x 113 cm [Ref# 37986] 3350 3350, 2003. C-print. 113 x 144 cm [Ref# 37982]   © Thomas Ruff