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With this portraits, Thomas Ruff undermines the classical method of portrait photography.

Thomas Ruff
Portraits, 1998

What could the story be behind this classic portrait?

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Ruff tests the limits of the photographic medium and these four portraits reveal his artistic motives.

Portrait photography traditionally tries to reveal the psychology through the strategic use of lighting, colour and environment or by focusing on certain details. Ruff took photos of his friends, but undermines the classic method of portrait photography. Here we see people in front of a neutral background, bathed in an even light, looking straight at the camera, expressionlessly. This method draws comparisons with passport photos in terms of atmosphere, but Ruff enlarges these images to two meters high.

The photos offer us a lot of detail in the faces of the people portrayed. We see the pores in their skin, but their neutral expressions and the lack of visual triggers create distance. This offers a new way of looking; it is a confrontation between the monumental physical presence and objective reflection of the faces, which leaves little room for exploring their character or temperament. We are after all blown away with the technique of exaggeration.

We see a photographic objectivity that flirts with fiction.