Project 3 Surface and Depth

Research point

Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg 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 screengrab of an image from Ruff’s jpeg series, and one or two of your own compressed jpegs (taken on auto mode of course!). You can achieve the effect quite easily by re-sizing a photograph to say, 180 x 270 pixels, and saving at ‘zero quality’ compression. If you use Photoshop’s ‘save for web’ you can see the effect immediately without having to save, close and reopen the file.


In his review, Colberg concentrates on the “beauty” of Ruff’s photographs on a surface level. He points out that whilst he fundamentally finds nothing wrong with producing “just” beautiful images, he failed to find any more depth the Ruff’s work in this book and spoke about the “thinness” of the concept behind it. Colberg was left wanting more.

Campany discussed the way in which modern digitalisation of photography has changed the way photographs are not only viewed but also in how they are stored, calling the internet “an archive of archives” which I agree, is very true, the internet seems limitless in it’s ability that allows us to access information which would have previously been difficult to find.

If we look at how we now view and process images, all photographs tend to be digitalised and are now made up of thousands of pixels. Campany begins to discuss this use of pixels as a modern art form, in the same way grain became used as a form of expression in photographic film. He sees “Jpegs” as an exploration of how our response to the pixel is changing but then describes how the pixel is currently represented as a cold technological limit as opposed to a form of expression so perhaps he is torn by the message that Jpegs is conveying, is it simply to early to decide whether the pixel can be used to further our expression? Or will it forever be a limitation on modern art?

I find it very interesting that both reviewers explained that Jpegs works best in print as opposed to being viewed digitally, we are looking at a potentially progressive art form which only works well if it’s viewed in a rather “old fashioned” way. There is a sense of conflict to this, does photography have the ability to progress beyond it’s present state as a “somewhere in-between” print and digitalisation? It appears from these reviews that Thomas Ruff’s work is addressing this very well.

Example from Thomas Ruff’s Jpegs


Here is an example of a picture I took myself, I saved it as 180×270 pixels and at zero quality compression. As you can see the same grid like effect is shown on the photo.