Thomas Ruff: Transforming Photography

Interview with the artist by Okwui Enwezor

Over the course of his three-decade career, Thomas Ruff has taken up many approaches to photography in his investigation into the status of the image in contemporary culture.

In Thomas Ruff: Transforming Photography, the artist presents new work that continues his ongoing probe into the history, processes, techniques, and technology of photography. One of the most influential artists working with photography today, Ruff has redefined the medium’s conceptual possibilities, simultaneously capturing and challenging the essence of the medium as a means for visual experience. He has investigated various photographic genres, including portraiture, the nude, and landscape and architectural photography, using both analog and digital technologies, and culling imagery from scientific archives, print media, and the internet.

Presented here is a selection of Ruff’s most well-known works, as well as the newer Tripe/Ruff series, begun in 2018, which draws on negatives of India and Burma taken in the 1850s by Captain Linnaeus Tripe, an officer in the East India Company. Also included is a conversation between Ruff and Okwui Enwezor, which took place at Haus der Kunst in Munich, in connection with the artist’s retrospective then on view. The conversation, published here for the first time, has been edited for this volume and examines Ruff’s artistic practice and inspiration, serving as an engaging and dynamic introduction to the artist.

Published on the occasion of the artist’s solo exhibition at David Zwirner, Hong Kong, in 2019, Thomas Ruff: Transforming Photography is available in both English-only and bilingual English/traditional Chinese editions.


Publisher: David Zwirner Books

Artists: Thomas Ruff, Spotlight Series

Contributors: Okwui Enwezor

Designer: Wkshps LLC

Printer: Asia One, Hong Kong

Publication Date: 2019

Binding: Hardcover

Dimensions: 6 ¾ × 9 ½ in | 17.1 × 24.1 cm

Pages: 80

Reproductions: 45 color

Language: English/traditional Chinese

ISBN: 9781644230176

Retail: $35 | £25

Status: Available

Thomas Ruff

In his considered approach to the means and possibilities of photography, Thomas Ruff explores a breadth of themes that is reflected in the range of techniques he employs: analogue and digital exposures taken by the artist exist in his practice alongside computer generated imagery, photographs from scientific archives, and pictures culled and manipulated from newspapers, magazines, and the Internet.

All Thomas Ruff books

Spotlight Series

Each title in the Spotlight Series from David Zwirner Books features new work by a leading contemporary artist. Available in both English-only and bilingual English/traditional Chinese editions, this series makes the work of these important artists accessible to a wider audience.

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Okwui Enwezor

Okwui Enwezor is director of Haus der Kunst. He has served as artistic director of several international exhibitions, including the 56th Venice Biennale (2015); La Triennale 2012, Paris; 7th Gwangju Biennale (2008); 2nd Seville Biennial (2006); Documenta 11, Kassel (2002); and the 2nd Johannesburg Biennale (1997). He is the former dean of academic affairs and senior vice president of the San Francisco Art Institute, and has held the position of visiting professor at several universities including Columbia University and New York University.