Thomas Ruff, the JPEG

The context of this theme is based on the comparison of analogue and digital photographic images, how they are archived.  Thomas Ruff in his book Jpegs explores the notion that once a photograph has been taken whether digitally or on film, it is no longer current, and will subsequently be held in an archive.  This archive could take the form of a series of photographs, a photo album, a memory stick, a hard drive on a computer, the internet, or folder containing negatives.  Ruff also explores the manner in which these images may be retrieved.  The one type of archive which holds images from both digital and analogue sources is the internet, although in this case the analogue images will have been scanned and held as digital images.  According to David Campany in his review of Ruff’s book JPEGS:

All photographic images come from archives. The very idea of the archive shaped how photography developed from its invention in the 1830s. The standardisation of cameras and film formats, the standardisation of printed matter, the standardisation of the family album, the picture library, the computer image file, the press agency and even the modern art gallery – these are all archival forms of, and for, the photographic image.  (David Campany)

Digital images held as Jpegs may be edited and enhanced using post production software so any analogue images converted to digital and which are not perfect, can be edited and enhanced in the same way.  However, the question then arises: how much can/should old analogue images be “enhanced”.  Should they be left as they appeared in their original form having been converted to digital images.

In these times of mass media and ease of transmitting images, the key benefit of holding all analogue images digitally is the ability to distribute them in the same way as digital images.  The pixel then is key to archiving and distributing images electronically.

In JM Colberg’s review of Ruff’s book, he quotes Ruff:

The 9/11 images were iconic, but of terribly low resolution. With the […] jpeg structure and the results from work with image structures I managed to modify the terribly poorly resolved but still visually aesthetical images my way. ‘Terribly beautiful’ images they were.” (Thomas Ruff).

So Thomas Ruff, according to JM Colberg, is a great believer of editing any Jpegs to enhance the image.  However, it should be borne in mind that an image designed for viewing on the internet is not necessarily the best format.  The example shows an image reduced in size to be suitable for the internet is not appropriate for the printed format.

IMG_3583 copy
Original image
Original image resized for viewing on the internet




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