Part one – Project 3 – Thomas Ruff : Jpegs

Part one – Project 3 – Surface and Depth

And so to close Part one of the course…

Research point: Thomas Ruff – Jpegs

Brief:  Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg (see links below) and, if you haven’t already done so, use them to begin the contextual section of your learning log.  Try to pick out the key points made by each writer.  Write about 300 words.

If you wish, you could add a screen grab of an image from Ruff’s jpeg series, and one or two of your own compressed jpegs.

Context: Thomas Ruff’s Jpegs is a series of low resolution pixellated images sourced from the internet and his own photographs, where the visual effect of jpeg compression (the blocks of 8×8 pixels know as ‘jpeg’ artefacts’) are explored.


Campany’s review firstly focuses on the concept of the found image and the archive. The internet being the predominant archive or ‘archive of archives’ from which photographers have sourced images for the purpose of making “sense of a culture increasingly dominated by spectacle”. Ruff tells us that he has sourced his images from the internet but his usage is very different; his interest being in their electronic construction instead i.e. the pixel.

Secondly, Campany examines the historic use of grain (in comparison to the pixel), in particular in the 1930s, 40s and 50s where “graininess took on the connotations of ‘authenticity’”, reflecting a sense of urgency and being pushed to limits. Noting that, in some cases grain was the result of “hasty processing by an assistant in the darkroom”. Pixels, Campany says, are different to the scattered chaos of grain in that “They are grid-like, machinic and repetitive” and currently do not offer authenticity in the same way as grain had but may do so in the future.

Colberg’s review states Ruff is “inventive and creative”, even though he doesn’t consider Ruff’s Jpeg series as anything other than a technique.  Following a visit to the Zwirner gallery Colberg thought Ruff’s work was much better viewed in his book rather than in a large format as shown in the galley, as the large format lacked the detail required to justify large prints.

One point that both Campany and Colberg seem to agree on is that some of Thomas Ruff’s Jpegs images are beautiful. Campany states in his review “His work seems cold and dispassionate, willful, searching and perverse but at times surprisingly beautiful.” and Colberg states “The tremendous beauty of some of the images notwithstanding, the concept itself seems to rely a bit too much on the technique itself.”

298 word count


Here are a couple of my own images which have been saved at very low resolution to give them the same look and feel as Thomas Ruff may have done, although not in keeping with his subject matters which were normally unpredictable images of water, smoke, steam, explosions to name a few.

_MG_9020 _MG_9030

This concludes my submission for Project 3.


Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel | David Campany. 2016. Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel | David Campany. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 17 April 2016].

Conscientious | Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. 2016. Conscientious | Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. [ONLINE] Available at:  [Accessed 17 April 2016].


One thought on “Part one – Project 3 – Thomas Ruff : Jpegs

  1. Pingback: Part one – Project 2 – Exercise 1.4 Frame | BA (Hons) Photography : A Different Perspective

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