Research Point: Surface and Depth

2nd February 2021

Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg and, if you haven’t already done so, use them to begin the Research section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made by each writer. Write about 300 words

Thomas Ruff: jpegs

Both reviews that we are asked to read have their own individual function and are written from individual perspectives. Campany’s essay is a longer critique with ideas, evidence and arguments around Ruff’s jpeg series using traditional photographic practices as a comparison. Colbert on the other hand has written a more personal and informal account reviewing Ruff’s images from a functional view point which includes looking at their reproduction for exhibition and book.

Campany’s main points that he focuses on are Ruff’s ‘jpegs’ as a photographic archival form and their construction from digital pixels rather than traditional grain. He states the works are not traditional and are creative in outcome, for example, aesthetic, technically and artistically.

Campany’s writings are quite critical of Ruff’s practice as a photographic form because when manipulated both in post processing terms and in blowing the images up into a larger scale for exhibition, the images become ‘an art of the pixel.’ Contrastingly, Colbert embraces Ruff’s images aesthetic qualities and acknowledges the fact that Ruff is pushing the boundaries of photography although he does state that the concept behind the series is very thin.

Colbert also pays specific attention to the role of the pixel, focusing on the visual outcome of reproducing the images for exhibition and for book. He states that the gallery reproductions are far less valuable as a visual representation of the images than viewing them in book format because the details are lost even more by blowing them up, ‘…then they show funny patterns (caused by the image compression algorithms).’

In conclusion, I find that because both of the writings differ in both their content and their viewpoints on Ruff’s ‘jpegs’, I have gained a much wider range of information to learn from. However, these writings are based on both fact and personal statements and personally I would like to view the ‘jpeg’ series in both book format and at exhibition to formulate my own conclusion.

323 words including quotes

Thomas Ruff, jpeg msh01 (2004)
image: MoMA (accessed 03.02.21)

It was suggested that we tried compressing the pixels on a couple of our own photographs. However, I loved this technique and could not stop creating images. Below I have chosen a few of my favourite creations.

Although we given an example measurement to work by, ‘…re-sizing a photograph to say, 180 x 270 pixels, and saving at ‘zero quality’ compression.’ I experimented not only with these measurements but others. It was interesting for me to note how the different pixel sizes per width and height altered each image visually.

I also worked out my own workflow for this technique to help gain the final image which would be larger to view in size, especially on the internet, and in this instance my blog post. My workflow to create the ‘jpeg’ images is as follows:

  1. Open image in Photoshop
  2. Adjust image sizing in pixels
  3. Save at zero quality compression
  4. Make image larger on screen and screenshot the changes before closing the image from Photoshop
  5. Close image
  6. Re-open image and make larger on the screen, take a second screenshot of the image

Both the screenshots will have a different final image due to the fact that it is not until the image has been-reopened that the effect truly can be seen. You can see two comparisons below:

Dawn Tomlin – ‘jpegs’

Self portrait – Thought
Self portrait – Resting Time
Portrait – Selene
Portrait – Music Time at the Station
Lowestoft Promenade – Seaside Storm
Natural Still life – Seaside Treasure
Natural Still life – Shaped 1
Natural Still life – Shaped 2
Warhol’s Identity Parade
original photograph taken at the TATE MODERN Andy Warhol exhibition: ‘Elvis I AND II’ 1964

I have found reading the reviews and trying out Ruff’s technique for myself, very rewarding. I have found a copy of Ruff’s ‘jpeg’ book for sale which I will purchase so that I can view the images in book format and post a link to further research and a book review at the bottom of this post.

The ‘jpeg’ compression technique is a very simple one and very effective, I actually really like the creative styling that it brings to the finished image. I place myself in two photography categories and ‘creative photography’ is one of those, the other being conceptual.

If I look at the examples that I chose for this post the weakest is ‘Selene’ due to the fact that it did not have any detail to begin with due to the fact that it was a cross-app image that I had created. Having low visual information to begin with meant that after processing it with the ‘jpeg’ technique the contents became even more abstract. The before and after photograph below:

Notes from reviews


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