Thomas Ruff, born in Zell am Harmersbach on February 10, 1958, is an important contemporary representative of conceptual photography. Ruff studied from 1977-85 at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf with Bernd Becher. Influenced by the Becher school, he began with a series of small-format, colored "interieurs" at the end of the 1970’s. In the mid-1980’s, he distanced himself more and more from a purely documentary concept of photography. He began to pose his photographs in order to be able to convey his own ideas and concepts.
At the beginning of the 1980’s, large-format portrait series were produced that always followed established rules. Ruff photographed the subjects from the front and isolated from their environment before a monochrome background.
Beginning in 1987, he turned to architecture and took photographs of industrial facilities and housing estates. Ruff’s work is very multi-faceted and not limited to a certain subject or photographic technique. For his "Zeitungsfotos" [newspaper photographs], "Sterne" [stars] and "Nudes", he used materials that were already at hand; the "Nachtbilder" [night pictures] were created with the help of infrared technology, and for "Andere Porträts" [other portraits], he used a phantom picture camera.
From 1990, Ruff also made people aware of the medium used for his pictures: by manipulating the pictures on the computer, he made it clear, for example, that there can be no "authentic" reproduction by means of photography, but rather the medium used characterizes and alienates reproduction considerably. In following years, Ruff has increased the use of the Internet in his works. Since 1999, Thomas Ruff has served as Professor of Photography at the State Art Academy of Düsseldorf and taught the photography classes there from 2000-2006.
He lives in Düsseldorf.