quote #2

POCOCK: When you show so many portraits all at once, are you trying to convince us of something?

RUFF: Convince?

POCOCK: To persuade us of something about these people?

RUFF: Maybe I have to say it differently. I’ve been asked a lot why my portraits never smile. Why are they so serious? They look so sad and like that. And I’ve been thinking about that. Maybe it has something to do with my generation. Like I use all-over lights, no shadows. We grew up in the seventies. The reality was that there was no candlelight. If you go through a place, through the car park, it’s always fluorescent, so no shadows, just the all-over light. And in the seventies in Germany we had a so-called Terrorismushysterie: the secret service surveyed people who were against nuclear power; the government created or invented a so-called Berufsverbot. This meant left-wing teachers were dismissed, so sometimes it was better not to tell what you were thinking. All over we have those video cameras, in the supermarkets, the car park. In big places everywhere you’ve got those cameras. If you stand in front of a customs officer, you try to make a face like the one in your passport. So why should my portraits be communicative at a time when you could be prosecuted for your sympathies.*

*Excerpt from an interview between Philip Pocock and photographer Thomas Ruff at JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY ART



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