Thomas Ruff

Rudiger Schottle

The more intensely we scrutinize these straightforwardly realistic color photographs, the less we find out about the people they depict. Thomas Ruff’s enormous, utterly lifelike portraits remove the individual to the same extent that they bring the sitter closer to us. Every liver spot, every bit of stubble on a chin, every wrinkle on a neck, like any information conveyed by this emotionless hyperclarity, binds us to the surface of the visible. These unposed photographs feature young people of the artist’s own generation, shown full face or in three-quarter view and cropped below the chest or waist, occupying the entire picture. Ruff eliminates everything but the bare essentials. Aside from a few monochrome backgrounds, he forgoes any staging and even the least bit of dramatization by light. Because of this similarity in method and presentation from one photograph to another, the subjects

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