Oh, nothing, just my Q&A with Aperture editor Brian Sholis hanging there online next to THOMAS RUFF. Brian and I went back and forth, discussing the photographs in Exhibition Space and how they relate to art historical developments like conceptual photography and Minimalism.
Meanwhile, Michael Famighetti interviewed Ruff for Aperture’s upcoming Summer issue, and the photographer talked about the beginnings of his Sterne series, the giant photos made using imagery from the European Southern Observatory’s Southern Sky Survey. Ruff’s work was one of the triggers for my own interest in the Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, which was the ESO’s Northern predecessor. Anyway, I think this is the first he’s discussed the series’ origins in English:
MF: Could you talk about the role of research in your work? Where does a project begin?
TR: If I see an image that attracts, upsets, or astonishes me–one that stays in my mind for a long time–I begin working. This is the starting point of the research: I try to find out how the image was created and in what context–historical, political, or social–the image belongs. After clarifying these questions I begin to create “my own” image, the image I have in my mind, the image that was triggered by the image I saw. Sometimes it can be done in a straightforward way, with a camera, but sometimes you need to reflect on how you can manage to make this technically. For example, when I had the idea of photographing the night sky, I realized that with my small telescope, I had no chance of getting high-quality images of stars, so I looked for an observatory with a big telescope where I could take the photographs myself. But they wouldn’t let me in. So I had to give up the idea of being the author of the photograph, and worked with large-format negatives from the observatory’s archive.
And speaking of authorship [and much more], in his talk with Jörg Colberg for Conscientious, Ruff mentioned authorship and his new show at David Zwirner:
JC: I was going to ask you about that, the idea of landscape photography. Scientific photographs, say the Mars rover images, in principle are landscape photographs along the lines of early survey landscape photography in the American West.
TR: That’s where it continues. On top of that, it’s also about automated photography, photographs made by robots. That’s all part of it, the surrender of authorship… Ma.r.s. contains a bit more authorship than Stars where all I did was to select the area and to do the cropping.
All I did? After all this time, do we find out is Ruff a traditionalist?
Thomas Ruff: Photograms for the new age [aperture.org]
Interview with Greg Allen [aperture.org]
Previously: Thomas Ruff’s Sterne