Thomas Ruff

Portrait Anna Giese


Werk - Portrait Anna Giese
Artist / Artist group
Thomas Ruff
Portrait Anna Giese
Edition / Serial number
Copy Number
photography, Color photography
Material / Technique
color photograph, framed
Dimensions / Duration
208 x 164 cm
ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe

"Around 1980 – I was still a student at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf – it seemed to me that the portrait had disappeared from contemporary art, at least as far as Minimal and Concept Art were concerned, my preferences at the time. So I wanted to try to create a contemporary, minimalist portrait, and I started the Portrait series, for which I made portraits of people around me between 1981 and 1991." (Thomas Ruff, 2018) [1]

Thomas Ruff achieved international fame in the 1980s with his portraits. Larger than life, distant and almost emotionless, the faces stare into the exhibition space. The chosen en face (French: from the front) representation in the style of a passport photo avoids any trace of narrative or empathy, and rather conveys the impression of a serial documentation, which apparently does not want to capture the person, but only their surface. Ruff still worked with purely analogue photography at the beginning of his portrait series – which also includes the work »Anna Giese« – but later increasingly used digital means of alienation and superimposition, following forensic techniques. Ruff owes this sober, reduced approach in no small part to the influence of the Düsseldorf Art Academy, which he attended from 1977 to 1985. The former student of Bernd and Hilla Becher is considered one of the most important representatives of the Düsseldorf School of Photography – a movement that saw itself in the tradition of the New Objectivity and was characterized in particular by an objectifying photographic approach.

[1] Thomas Ruff, (translated from the German) in: dpa, »Westfälische Nachrichten«, 10.02.2018, (last call: 10.10.2021).

Author: Julia Ihls

About the artist/s