It’s been years since photographer Thomas Ruff has taken a picture in the traditional sense – set the aperture, press the shutter release, develop the film. For most of his career, Ruff’s work has consisted of altering images he’s dug up everywhere, from the archives of NASA to Internet porn sites. In his latest series, Ruff disregards the camera’s role in the photography process altogether.
In photograms, now on display at Johnen Galerie in Mitte, Ruff champions the so-called camera-less photography, first made popular by 1920s avant-garde artists such as Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy, who inspired Ruff’s desire to explore the medium. Photograms are made by placing objects on photographic paper and then exposing it to light. The objects leave a shadow of their form on the paper making it a kind of photographic negative.
The process is similar to the one that makes people looks like raccoons when they come back from vacation after having worn sunglasses for ten days. Frequent visitors to the tanning salon have also developed this trick and have found that by placing a sticker in the same place day after day, they eventually have a kind of reverse tattoo of a heart, dollar-bill sign, or Playboy insignia. But I digress.