Thomas Ruff (born 10 February 1958) is a German photographer who lives and works in Düsseldorf.
Thomas Ruff, one of six children, was born in 1958 in Zell am Harmersbach in the Black Forest, Germany. In the summer of 1974, Ruff acquired his first camera and after attending an evening class in the basic techniques of photography he started to experiment, taking shots similar to those he had seen in many amateur photography magazines
PortraitsIn his studio between 1981 and 1985, Ruff photographed 60 half-length portraits in the same manner: Passport-like images, with the upper edge of the photographs situated just above the hair, even lighting, the subject between 25 and 35 years old, taken with a 9 × 12 cm negative, and because of the use of a flash without any motion blur. The early portraits were black-and-white and small, but Ruff soon switched to color, using solid backgrounds in different colors; from a stack of colored card stock the sitter could choose one color, which then served as the background. By 1987 Ruff had distilled the project in several ways, settling on an almost exclusive use of the full frontal view and enlarging the finished work to monumental proportions. Because he found the effect of the colors too dominate in these, he chose a light and neutral background for the portraits he made between 1986 and 1991. Ruff started out reconstructing faces but soon found it more interesting to construct artificial faces, which often combine features of men and women, that do not, but could conceivably, exist in reality; this resulted in his "Anderes Porträt" series (1994-1995). Ruff intended that large groups of the approximately eight-by-ten-inch color portraits would be hung together, so to add variety he photographed each person against a colored backdrop.
After a number of collaborations with Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron, the firm designed a studio building for Ruff and Gursky in Düsseldorf. Ruff is represented by Gagosian Gallery, David Zwirner, New York, Johnen Galerie, Berlin, and Galerie Wilma Tolksdorf, Frankfurt.