Research point – Response to Thomas Ruff’s work

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


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Each reviewer is highly complimentary of the beauty of Thomas Ruff’s book, however they part company when discussing the meaning (and value) of the images. David Campany sees the images as challenging and intellectually stimulating, while Joerg Colberg does not!

Campany’s views are interesting. He sees the work as impersonal and unemotional, as we are distanced a little from the subject matter. He goes on to say “Indeed what is particular about Ruff’s work is its potent ability to solicit individual and global responses that cannot be entirely reconciled”. I think he is pondering on the large scale shocking subject matter, such as nine eleven, with the contradiction of our own personal emotional response. These images seem unemotional as they are seen through the filter of the pixel – a cold computer generated image. He then discusses the topic of found imagery, and how we relate to it, mentioning Dada, Surrealism and Cubism. There are some similarities to Picasso here – he and others experimented with multiple view points within a single image. (I’m not sure pixellated imagery takes things quite so far, but you can see a connection.) He points out that using archive material has a long history, and although “the pixel has replaced the grain of photographic film.” Company sees drama and tension in the interplay between the chaotic and dramatic subject matter the ‘abstract’ nature of the pixels.

Colberg disagrees, and I can’t help sympathising with his rather more skeptical views! He begins by saying he’s not going to debate whether this book can really be called photography, because they are mostly found images. As I’m entirely new to this subject, I haven’t thought about what might be defined as photography, but its interesting that some photographers like to work with found imagery. He then gives a brief explanation about the inspiration behind the book, and how he responded to it most in print (rather than large images in a gallery). Then he proceeds to the main point of his argument, which is really “so what?”. He feels they are simply beautiful images, making the rather obvious point that poor quality computer images are pixellated.

I can see both points of view really…I think most of us read modern imagery as almost more shocking and dramatic because the image quality is poor. It implies that something happened which is so awful that there was no time to set up an artistic, calm scene. It can seem elusive – like its been rescued from a distant place. A bit like a very important letter or package thats been beaten up in the post and survived fire or flood to reach you. On the other hand, if you re-use shocking imagery it will imply intellectual depth, but we should question if there really is any! Could an artist just be exploiting awful shocking events as a short cut to telling us they are really serious and heavy weight without really saying anything profound? Well, Colberg seems to think so, and I kind of agree. (Sorry!)


Exercise 1.4 Frame

“The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital camera.”

As far as I was able to find out, my camera doesn’t have a viewfinder grid. I found this exercise quite strange, as it felt weird to only think about a portion of the composition! These images are taken in my parents garden, which is within the dartmoor national park.


We were then asked to select the most interesting images and group them in a contact sheet. I wasn’t quite clear if we were allowed to crop the images or not so I’ve left them be.

Here are my picks large size. Obviously theres a bit of an award relationship between the bench and the summer house here. I would much rather crop this!

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In each case we were asked to fill a portion of the frame with a chosen object, and ignore the rest of the scene. In this case the bench stands out nicely!

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Focus on the red watering can.

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I know the chicken is filling the frame here, which is not what we were asked to do, but I just couldn’t bare not to let it take centre stage for one pic! (Needless to say, photographing chickens is hard, they don’t keep still much.)

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Back view of dog and partner

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Log bottom right was my subject here

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The group.  I organised the arrangement manually as I wanted them in a particular sequence, ( I edited down further to remove the summer house, and left off the wheelbarrows to give an even number of pics)gardenSet


Exercise 1.3 Line (Part 1 & 2)

  1. “Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wide- angle lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to the line.”

I don’t have a wide angled lense so I can’t comment on how that effects the way i might take a shot. Firstly to re-visit this image taken previously, you can see the side of this shed creates a strong diagonal, with the lines converging towards an invisible vanishing point (as in 1 point perspective).

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Although this was not the main point of the exercise, I took the opportunity to try some outside shots. I sat outside my house, trying to catch some sunny moments…I found it interesting to note that the timing is quite tricky with pedestrians and cars about, so this was harder than I expected. It made me realise I needed to learn to plan ahead and react reasonably quickly. There are also some views of the roof line from my back garden, with the fence running towards it. I had the camera set to auto, on the landscape option.


We were asked to note how awkward an image is when the diagonal runs out of shot – like this.

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My view looking right. Here the roads leads into the picture (though of course the side road veers off) I also never noticed how much we ignore power lines when looking in real life, but here they are crossing the image very strongly.

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Looking left. You can see I had a go at shooting into the sun. I need to buy a lens hood thingy to prevent lens flare but I just got away with it this time. I like the effect, but I don’t know if this is a ‘bad’ shot?

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I like the single figure walking along. you can see this picture has plenty of depth

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I edited out power lines in this picture as they were too dominant and cut the image in half.

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These are taken in my parents garden on another day.  I think the diagonal close up is less successful in terms of leading your eye, though there are some interesting shapes.

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2. “Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space…”

This time we are asked to do the opposite, and flatten the image,  with images taken parallel to the subject. This results in strong horizontals and verticals…Which can be a bit boring.

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Though I like the scene through the gate. Here’s the one I liked most – the top of a fence post.

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Exercise 1.2 Point


This exercise is about looking at the position of a point in relation to the frame. I’m still not sure if I have actually done this correctly, but my first attempt was taking pictures of the padlock on my garden gate. I found the angles interesting and deliberately played with ‘dodgy’ composition in some of the shots. (I’m not claiming to be an expert on composition, but hopefully its the one piece of prior experience I can bring to the table, as the principles are similar in illustration and graphic design).

Anyway. Problem. I changed the angles, which is not what we where asked to do, and I managed to focus on the wrong elements of the image. Grr!

Here the padlock is a bit too central, but I like the wooden lines leading in.

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Please forgive the blur, the padlock has moved to the right

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Deliberately taking the padlock right into the corner of the shot. Maybe this has potential to weight the image as all about the door being barred and a long way off? But I would generally avoid doing this as I don’t think its ‘good’ composition. In this sense, I think this is the image that most demonstrates having an off balance relationship to the frame.

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Changing the frame to portrait

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I like this angle, there are interesting diagonals, its a shame its not in focus! I feel the frame hugs the image here, and helps create visual tension.

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The next thing I need to address is the really basic problem of taking out of focus images! I’ve now discovered how to turn on ‘Live view”, which should help me understand where the camera is focusing.

I moved inside to simplify my subject matter, and try to take very basic pictures of a single subject, in this case a greetings card.

In terms of The Rule Of Thirds, there are images that sit more comfortably then others. You can see that because everything is horizontal, each image is rather static. On reflection, I should have removed this card from the mantel piece, as the wood forms quite a large part of the image.

This right hand placement, is considered a ‘hot spot’ that the eye is drawn to (in graphic design – I’m assuming photography is the same?) An object on the right can imply its moving to the right, but as I said, this image is pretty static.

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This image can be read as the object has appeared from the left. I f you image a line dropped through the text, its roughly on a third.

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I wouldn’t normally place an object right in the middle, however this is off set a little, by the horizontal division still being in thirds.

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Not where you’d normally frame a shot! Is this ‘pushing’ against the frame or just a bit off key and not very effective? I’m going to say the latter, it just looks bad!

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All the ‘weight’ is on the bottom right – out of balance, and not in a good way! But if the mantel piece stayed this low, and the card was re-postioned, it could be more interesting.

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Exercise 1.1 Viewing the Histogram

Here are my images, taken in my garden, when the rain had eased to a few drops (its been raining here almost non-stop since I started the course)

I viewed the histograms on my camera, then uploaded and viewed in Photoshop. You can see I’ve taken a screen shot of each one. Just as the course material predicted, there are variations, despite the fact it is the same scene, photographed all in within a few seconds. Histograms are slightly familiar to me, as I know them from adjusting curves. We can see that the graph represents dark (on the left) to the lightest values (on the right). In each of these pictures, the mid-tones are the greatest proportion.

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Out of curiosity, I also viewed the quantity of each RGB colour from one of the images. You can see there is a great deal of blue in the darker tones.

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