Thomas Ruff is always full of surprises, and his recent show in Düsseldorf was no exception. A photographer who trained with Bernd Becher and whose early works are black-and-white images of ordinary residential neighborhoods around Germany, Ruff became well known in the 1980s for his large, passport-picture-style color portraits of friends and fellow artists. Starting in 1989, he began conducting experiments with the photographic medium, sometimes making pictures without a camera. As he explained in a 1993 interview with Philip Pocock, his goal was not to capture reality with the camerathe original ambition of photographybut to create a picture. The experiments continued apace, often by way of questioning conventions of authorship: In 1995, for instance, he manually colored the illustrations from a medical textbook, producing a series of pictures he titled “Retuschen
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