Portrait 1986 (Stoya) Photo by Thomas Ruff, Tate Collection. Reference: P78091
Display Caption – Tate
Ruff believes that photography can only capture the surface of things, conveying what he describes as ‘the authenticity of a manipulated and prearranged reality’. In 1981, he began a series of colour portraits of his friends and fellow students at the Düsseldorf Academy. Each subject is framed like a passport photo against a plain background. The portraits resolutely refuse to provide any psychological insights into the sitters.
Gallery label, May 2010
The above link from the Tate Gallery discusses Ruff’s project called Portraits 1986 – 1991′ of formal style portraits of his friends and fellow students using a large format camera. The purpose was to capture very detailed images of the subjects but not to reveal any information about identity. Ruff simply photographed only the head and shoulders against a plain background with even lighting and asked the sitter look directly into the lens and maintain a neutral expression.
These photographs were displayed 1600 x 1205 mm
An interview between Gil Bank and Thomas Ruff for Influence, Issue 02, 2004.
In this link which was attached to the Tate’s web page the interviewer Gil Bank talks to Thomas Ruff regarding his portraiture projects. The projects discussed were the above Porträt 1986-1991 and the Anderes Porträt 1994 – 1995 in which Ruff created portraits of non-existing faces using an old police photo-fit machine from the 1980’s that he got permission to use from a museum then using photographs of his own of friends and colleagues he created new faces using old analogue technology rather than modern digital technology. A French critique had suggested that his Porträt project reminded him of the Fascist Art or Socialist Realism. The connection to Fascism upset Ruff; but as an artist it spurred his imagination; so his project Anderes Porträt was experimenting with ideas that had been first tried in the late nineteenth century to create an average identity. The original idea was to find the face that represented a criminal, a Jew, a person of importance, etc. Ruff used the police photo-fit machine to mix the faces he provided to see if he could make a Macho Man or a Superwoman?