Shared posts

25 Mar 13:38

In The Beginning by Dan Forbes | VMAN

by Homotography

The new issue no. 31 of VMAN features this fantastic footwear story, photographed by Dan Forbes and styled by Julian Antetomaso.


27 Mar 18:11

When you have a cat, it’s important to assert dominance over it.

by bspcn


12 Mar 11:15

Blind runners in Tokyo

by mattsmith

Running Blind 8 650x433 Blind runners in Tokyo
Every weekend, at the Yoyogi Park in the middle of Tokyo, you can see blind people jogging around the park’s track. Amazing, emotional and inspiring, it’s a true testament on overcoming adversities.

Running Blind 7 650x433 Blind runners in Tokyo
Running Blind 1 650x433 Blind runners in Tokyo
Running Blind 6 650x433 Blind runners in Tokyo
Running Blind 2 650x433 Blind runners in Tokyo
Take a look at the entire photographic document here.

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12 Mar 19:14

The History of Space Travel in 10 Objects

by Allison Meier
SOVIET FULL PRESSURE STRIZH RESCUE SPACESUIT.  Full pressure spacesuit, manufactured by NPP Zvedza, ca. 1988.  Olive flame-retardant nylon canvas with light blue and silver trim, inner pressure bladder of Kapron and resin, approximately 65 inches tall.  Est. $15,000-20,000

Soviet Strizh Rescue Spacesuit (1988) (all images courtesy Bonhams)

As our shuttles have gone into retirement and we look to the future of what space travel will mean for human exploration, there are plenty of artifacts left behind with which to examine the successes and failures of our journeying into beyond our atmosphere. On April 8, Bonhams auction house in New York is holding a Space History Sale with some 300 pieces that give a cross-section of this era.

The space sales are a frequent occurrence at Bonhams — for example, last year’s auction had its star item as an Apollo 13 burn note going for $84,100. Here’s a look at 10 objects, from cosmonaut weapons to groundbreaking photographs, from this year’s sale that offer a lens into the endeavors of space history.

Much of the space race was built out of rivalry — the United States versus the USSR. And the first object at the top of this post, the Strizh rescue suit from 1988, is a symbol of one of the last cosmonaut efforts before the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was meant to be worn to protect its person from potential ejections from the Buran spacecraft. However, the program was canceled with the dissolution.

SPACE SUIT DEVELOPMENT PHOTOGRAPHS.  Collection of 70 photographs (67 black and white, 3 color), mostly 10 by 8 inches, 1960s  Est. $ 700 - 1,000

Space suit development photograph, one of a collection (1960s)

To jump back a few decades there are also these photographs of the development of the space suit, altering ideas of what was used in aviation for even more extremes.

MERCURY ERA SPACESUIT. Cover layer from a Phase 2 Mercury era space suit, with early model "widow's peak" helmet and gloves.  Est. $8,000-12,000

Cover layer from Phase 2 Mercury Era Spacesuit

Here’s what the United States ended up with for its first manned flights in the Mercury Program. The suit is basically a modification of the Mark IV altitude pressure suit used by the US Navy, with some thermal control adjustments.

COSMONAUT SURVIVAL MACHETE.  Large 14 inch machete consisting of a long 9 inch triangular blade having a sharpened fore-edge and head with a 4 ½ removable black rubber handle.  Est. $500-700

Cosmonaut Survival Machete

Yet survival at high altitudes was only part of the problem to solve, what about the way back down? The Russian Soyuz missions were extra prepared, each being equipped with a 14-inch Cosmonaut Survival Machete. This was in case of an unplanned remote landing, giving its wielder “the ability to cut brush and small trees, loosen soil, and defend against wild animals.”

LUNAR ORBITER I.  THE FIRST IMAGE OF THE EARTH AS SEEN FROM THE MOON.  Silver gelatin print, 13½ by 10½ inches, on Kodak paper. August 23, 1966.  Est. $1,000-2,000

First image of the Earth as seen from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter I, Silver gelatin print, 13½ by 10½ inches, on Kodak paper, August 23, 1966

Before humans stepped onto the moon, the Lunar Orbiter I went up and took the first photograph of the Earth from its rocky neighbor. The way this was transmitted back with early photographic technology was pretty incredible. A Kodak camera was onboard the orbiter, and would take a wide-angle and telephoto image with each exposure through two lenses with 70 mm film. This film was processed by orbiter itself, which was then put through an analog scanner that sent information to Earth over radio, with the “video signal” interpreted into variations in light that were reproduced in 35 mm film, with the image you see here.

APOLLO 7 HASSELBLAD COLOR FILM POSITIVES.  A strip of duplicate positives in color from the astronauts' Hasselblad cameras. October 22, 1968.  Est. $400-600

Apollo 7 Hasselblad Color Film Positives, October 22, 1968

The images got much clearer when humans launched into space through the Apollo program. These images from 1968 during the Apollo 7 mission show different cloud formations over the Earth oceans. What’s remarkable is that there was just one 70 mm camera onboard the module that took 533 exposures — there was no room for even the most minor error.

COLLINS' FLOWN CREW-SIGNED APOLLO 11 EMBLEM.  Flown Apollo 11 crew mission emblem, 3½ inches in diameter, printed on Beta cloth, 6 inches square.  Est. $40,000-60,000

Collins’ Flown Crew-Signed Apollo 11 Emblem

This little emblem is estimated at auction for between $40,000-60,000. Why such a price that soars above whole spacesuits? Well, this belonged to Michael Collins. You might know the astronaut’s team members Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin better, but Collins is the one who orbited the module during the lunar landing. You can see his scrawl at the top: “Carried to the moon aboard Apollo XI, July 1969,” and they brought back their own “earthrise” photograph.

MOTION PICTURE RING SIGHT USED ON THE MOON DURING APOLLO 15.  Flown Maurer DAC (Data Acquisition Camera) sighting ring. Circular metal ring, 1¼ inches in diameter with an optical component at the center.   Est. $20,000-30,000

Motion Picture Ring Sight Used on the Moon During Apollo 15

By the time the Apollo 15 mission launched, imaging technology was more sophisticated, but even the new motion picture camera required a bit of velcro, which you can still see at the top of this Ring Sight. As Bonhams states, it’s “perhaps the only lunar surface ring sight still in private hands,” and was used to capture the pocked surface of the moon on 16 mm film.

MIR SPACE STATION CONTROL PANEL.  A KEY PIECE OF HARDWARE FROM THE MIR SPACE STATION.  Control panel, aluminum and steel painted light blue, with plastic push buttons, glass light panels, digital display.  Provenance: Displayed at the 2000 World's Fair in Hannover, Germany as part of the Russian MIR Toru Control Centre exhibit.  Est. $4,000-6,000

MIR Space Station Control Panel

Jumping ahead and away from imaging, there’s also this relic of the MIR Space Station, one of the longer duration space stations that had a 12 and a half year run in orbit. It was deorbited in 2001 and incinerated in the atmosphere. However, pieces of it survive, such as this little light blue panel that was part of the TORU docking system. Unfortunately, it wasn’t always smooth sailing: ”The system was famously used in the disastrous docking attempt of the Russian unmanned cargo spacecraft Progress M-34, which collided with the MIR space station in 1997.”

THE AEROASSIST FLIGHT EXPERIMENT MODEL.  Large two part high-fidelity prototype model of the Aeroassist Flight Experiment (AFE) vehicle made of metal, painted wood, and plastic.   Scale 1:20.  Est. $ 6,000 - 8,000

The Aeroassist Flight Experiment Model

Last, here is a model of a space future that never was — or at least hasn’t arrived yet. The plans for this futuristic spacecraft go back to the 1980s, although it’s only been realized in a metal, wood, and plastic model at a 1:20 scale. Perhaps in the coming decades we can finally have some relics from a propelled space exploration that will take us further than before, and the space auctions will surely be waiting for the relics.

The Space History Sale is April 8 at Bonhams in New York (580 Madison Avenue, Manhattan). A preview will be held April 5–8. 

11 Mar 11:31

Illustrations by Ivan Belikov

by antonliberant

Ivan Belikov 650x459 Illustrations by Ivan Belikov

Amazing digital illustrations by Ivan Belikov, talented freelance illustrator and artist based in Chelyabinsk, Russian Federation.

Ivan Belikov31 Illustrations by Ivan Belikov
Ivan Belikov51 Illustrations by Ivan Belikov
Ivan Belikov7 Illustrations by Ivan Belikov
Ivan Belikov91 Illustrations by Ivan Belikov
via Creative Illustrations.

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21 Feb 17:00

Inside Irish Nomad Communities

by Amy Wolff
© Birte Kaufmann © Birte Kaufmann © Birte Kaufmann © Birte Kaufmann © Birte Kaufmann © Birte Kaufmann

German photographer Birte Kaufmann has spent time over the last three years with a family of Irish gypsies, referred to as The Travellers, staying in their Volkswagen camper. Traditionally the Travellers were accepted in their country, like migrant workers, but in today’s world, they live on the fringes of society.

One family she depicts, a man with nineteen children and grandchildren, shuffles between living on the side of the road and at a halting site. Each time Kaufmann returns, she gains more access, which has been especially challenging due to the strict separation of gender roles in the community, she says. “As close as I have managed to get to their community, it is still difficult for me to have a clear insight into the male traditions. I have often heard the sentence, ‘Birte, the women are over there! Go there!’”

Kaufmann’s series presents a range of environmental portraits and intimate moments within a community that is misunderstood by outsiders. Her drive to document them without stigma has garnered her international awards and exhibitions, along with a Wüestenrot grant that will allow her to complete her project. She is currently en route to Ireland, planning to stay two and a half weeks with the community.

Kaufmann’s series “The Travellers” is featured in a number of current and upcoming exhibitions and was a winner in the 2013 PDN Photo Annual in the Documentary category. View the rest of the winners and visit the Photo Annual site for information on how to enter this year’s annual. The final deadline is February 25th.

15 Feb 18:43

Never-Before-Seen Photos of the New York City Subway System from 1981

by EDW Lynch

Rare photos of the New York City Subway in 1981

Back in 1981, a young photographer named Christopher Morris spent 6 months documenting the plight of New York City’s subway system, which much like the city at the time, was overrun by crime, graffiti, and litter. Morris, now a successful photojournalist, recently rediscovered an unpublished cache of his subway photos. You can view 15 of the photos over at TIME LightBox.

Rare photos of the New York City Subway in 1981

Rare photos of the New York City Subway in 1981

Rare photos of the New York City Subway in 1981

Rare photos of the New York City Subway in 1981

28 Feb 20:11

who-wore-it-better: Carsten Nicolaï Anti  ::  Albrecht...

27 Feb 15:14

Hanne Gaby Odiele in Dazed & Confused March 2014 by Harley...

Hanne Gaby Odiele in Dazed & Confused March 2014 by Harley Weir

04 Mar 19:28

Top: Chanel FW 14 Bottom: Andreas Gurskey 99 cent II 2001

Top: Chanel FW 14

Bottom: Andreas Gurskey 99 cent II 2001

05 Mar 06:20

ASX.TV: Alex Prager – “A Small Portrait of Alex Prager” (2013)


Arnaud Uyttenhove’s short sees LA-born photographer and filmmaker Alex Prager tour her retro-styled studio at the time of her first solo museum show. A film by Arnaud Uyttenhove.

The post ASX.TV: Alex Prager – “A Small Portrait of Alex Prager” (2013) appeared first on Since 2008, AMERICAN SUBURB X | Art, Photography and Culture that matters..

06 Mar 09:44

wtbw: (via Beast by Gerwyn Davies | InspireFirst)

09 Mar 22:05


14 Jan 04:22

Effervescent Bacon Drink Tabs

Elena Bulygina

not tasty at all, but we keep these in a first aid kit in case of emergency

Drink a glass of Bacon water, the Effervescent Bacon Drink Tabs($2.35) from amazon for Bacon..(Read...)

07 Feb 06:23

3D Print Popeye

Rik Baker's 3D printed Popeye Sculpture, the result is awesome!"Here is a 3D print of my..(Read...)

13 Feb 18:01

From Walker Evans series 12 Portraits of a Cat,...

From Walker Evans series 12 Portraits of a Cat, 1940s-50s.

These pictures are 2.25” x 2.25”. Roughly the size of your phone screen. Walker Evans was the original instagrammer of his pets.

14 Feb 01:26

mutationwaltz: Issey Miyake, Irving Penn, 1991


Issey Miyake, Irving Penn, 1991

07 Feb 08:45

Learn To Pick Locks, With The MIT Guide To Lock Picking (1991)

by Ilia Blinderman


When I was young, I decided that I would learn how to pick locks. If countless intrepid TV heroes could dismantle a pair of handcuffs with nothing but a hastily swiped paperclip, why couldn’t I? The process, it turns out, was quite easy: I practiced on an old, lockable diskette cabinet, and quickly figured out how to crack the lock’s mechanism using two paperclip halves. This allowed me to proclaim that I was an expert lock picker to my friends, and that, really, the whole thing was an elementary procedure.

Although, as the astute reader would surmise, I knew next to nothing about lock picking, I was right on one count: it’s easy. Or, at least, so notes the MIT Guide to Lock Picking, written by the mysterious Ted The Tool. This primer was first published in 1987 and has been floating around various websites for the past two decades. And it’s still considered an essential introduction to the art of picking locks. It begins by outlining lock terminology:

The key is inserted into the keyway of the plug. The protrusions on the side of the keyway are called wards. Wards restrict the set of keys that can be inserted into the plug. The plug is a cylinder which can rotate when the proper key is fully inserted. The non-rotating part of the lock is called the hull. The first pin touched by the key is called pin one. The remaining pins are numbered increasingly toward the rear of the lock. 

The proper key lifts each pin pair until the gap between the key pin and the driver pin reaches the sheer line. When all the pins are in this position, the plug can rotate and the lock can be opened. An incorrect key will leave some of the pins protruding between the hull and the plug, and these pins will prevent the plug from rotating.

Over its 50 pages, the guide explains the flatland and pin column lock models, and lays out the theory behind opening them. It also includes guidelines on making lock picking tools, legal information, and numerous pieces of practical advice. Most useful? It contains numerous exercises, and stresses the importance of doing your lock picking homework:

“Anyone can learn how to open desk and filing cabinet locks, but the ability to open most locks in under thirty seconds is a skill that requires practice.”

lia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

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The Enigma Machine: How Alan Turing Helped Break the Unbreakable Nazi Code

Learn To Pick Locks, With The MIT Guide To Lock Picking (1991) is a post from: Open Culture. You can follow Open Culture by signing up for our Daily Email. That is the most reliable and convenient option. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

11 Feb 20:05

David Foster Wallace’s Sharp Letter to His Editor: “Don’t F with the Mechanics of My Piece”

by Josh Jones


Click for expanded version

We might imagine that David Foster Wallace worked out his neuroses primarily in his voluminous fictional and critical output, but as we see from a fax above to Harper’s editor Joel Lovell, the painful self-consciousness that drove his writing manifested in even the most mundane of documents. Wallace submitted the faxed letter with a short essay on Kafka that appeared in Harper’s in 1998. The essay itself—an account of the difficulties of teaching the arch Czech author to American undergraduates—slices through commonplaces, arriving at the conclusion that “the horrific struggle to establish a human self results in a self whose humanity is inseparable from that horrific struggle. That our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.” Reassuring stuff this ain’t, but then, neither is Kafka. Even amidst all of its elaborate defensive strategies, Wallace’s writing also exposes the unheimlichkeit of human embodiment, and in the Kafka essay, it’s a point he wanted to make in a very particular way, unmediated by any editorial intervention.

His faxed letter to Lovell anticipates and resists criticism and alternates between dismissive, self-effacing, and mock-threatening in his expressed desire that the Harper’s staff “not copyedit this like a freshman essay.” He explains the conversational style of the piece as an effort to “protect me from people’s ire.” The body of the letter finishes with Wallace’s footnoted promise to “find a way to harm you or cause you suffering* if you fuck with the mechanics of this piece.” It’s classic DFW: completely idiosyncratic, a prose style induced by his “horrific struggle” to establish an authentic self. Read a transcript below, courtesy of Letters of Note. All, of course, sic.


From: David Wallace

To: Joel Lovell, Harper’s [redacted] (Office [redacted])

This is pretty much the best I can do, I think. I feel shitty sticking a lot of what you wanted in FN’s, but I didn’t see any work to work it into the main text w/o having to rewrite whole ¶s and throw the thing’s Styrofoamish weight off.

The deal is this. You’re welcome to this for READINGS if you wish. What I’d ask is that you (or Ms. Rosenbush, whom I respect but fear) not copyedit this like a freshman essay. Idiosyncracies of ital, punctuation, and syntax (“stuff,” “lightbulb” as one word, “i.e.”/”e.g.” without commas after, the colon 4 words after ellipses at the end, etc.) need to be stetted. (A big reason for this is that I want to preserve an oralish, out-loud feel to the remarks so as to protect me from people’s ire at stuff that isn’t expanded on more; for you, the big reason is that I’m not especially psyched to have this run at all, much less to take a blue-skyed 75-degree afternoon futzing with it to bring it into line with your specs, and you should feel obliged and borderline guilty, and I will find a way to harm you or cause you suffering* if you fuck with the mechanics of this piece.

Let Me Know,

Dave Wallace

* (It may take years for the oportunity to arise. I’m very patient. Think of me as a spider with a phenomenal emotional memory. Ask Charis.)

via F yeah, manuscripts!

Related Content:

30 Free Essays & Stories by David Foster Wallace on the Web

David Foster Wallace’s 1994 Syllabus: How to Teach Serious Literature with Lightweight Books

David Foster Wallace Creates Lists of His Favorite Words: “Maugre,” “Tarantism,” “Ruck,” “Primapara” & More

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

David Foster Wallace’s Sharp Letter to His Editor: “Don’t F with the Mechanics of My Piece” is a post from: Open Culture. You can follow Open Culture by signing up for our Daily Email. That is the most reliable and convenient option. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

03 Feb 17:00

Stacy Arezou Mehrfar

by Willson Cummer

© Stacy Arezou Mehrfar

I believe there is latent beauty in the concept of suburbia. It is how we’ve nurtured the proliferation of suburban sprawl and what that says about our national character, that I have looked at in my work. When I started American Palimpsests in 2003, the residential development industry was expanding at record speed.  This growth was essentially erasing the natural habitat: green grass was being planted over dry desert soil, earth was being excavated to make way for artificial lakes, and housing tracts were wiping away acres of wilderness.  Simultaneously, once-vibrant, established neighborhoods were being left forsaken. I saw this rapid change as defining the “American Palimpsest”: throughout the United States’ history, Americans have repeatedly rewritten the land to create an idealized notion of nature and habitat.

Many of the new communities I photographed for this project emptied amid the first bust of the new millennium, leaving behind incomplete developments and heavily altered landscapes. American Palimpsests | This Was What There Was is a photographic reckoning of several cycles of growth and contraction that reflect the American way of life.

– Stacy Arezou Mehrfar, Sydney, Australia

© Stacy Arezou Mehrfar

© Stacy Arezou Mehrfar3

06 Jan 17:30

Pale Blue Dot

by A Photo Editor

Feeling the challenges of 2014? Take a moment to reflect on this:

05 Jan 13:02

  Lolitas blog

10 Jan 07:33

Talk To Your Daughter Before The Beauty Industry Does

by udijw
Elena Bulygina

На удивление ок (их Real Beauty была отретачена кстати)

We have talked about the impact that the industry has over our lives and persception of beautiful before. and we are happy to see that some of the advertisers are shifting away from plastic barbies used for models like the campaign done by UK fashion chain Debenhams which featured beautiful people of all kinds. We are also seeing some a backlash toward the industry on the form aware artists like Anna Hill.

We are often asked why we are featuring those stories and I think this punch-to-the-guts movie by Tim Piper (although a bit old) does a better work at explaining this than we can.

[Beauty Pressure | Tim Piper]

Home Studio Photography

read more

22 Jan 19:29

William Eggleston at Gagosian Gallery

William Eggleston at Gagosian Gallery

30 Jan 21:15

3D Print Your Own Museum

by Jillian Steinhauer
Screenshot of Oliver Laric's "Lincoln 3D Scans"

Screenshot of Oliver Laric’s “Lincoln 3D Scans”

Thanks to online platforms like Google Art Project and institutions releasing more and more images on the web for free, the general public has access to museum collections in ways they never have before. But what if you could do more than just remix images of objects in a collection — what if you could 3D print the objects themselves?

Laric's 3D scan of John Gibson's "Nymph Untying her Sandal" (19th century), stone and marble (via

Laric’s 3D scan of John Gibson’s “Nymph Untying her Sandal” (19th century), stone and marble (via

For a project called “Lincoln 3D Scans,” artist Oliver Laric worked with the Collection Museum and Usher Gallery in Lincoln, UK, to make some of their pieces available in just that way. Laric sorted through their archives and chose dozens of objects to scan, from busts of Beethoven, Dante, and Einstein to pieces of furniture to a human pelvis bone. He then created 3D models of the objects, which he collected and published online. Each of the 52 pieces on Laric’s site — which is currently being highlighted as a “First Look” online exhibition by the New Museum — is presented in the form of a rotating GIF, stripped of color and looking like a kind of digital styrofoam version of itself. Underneath the GIFs are some basic identifying details and a button to download the scan as an STL file. Using that file, you can print the object yourself.

“The project aims at making the collection available to an audience outside of its geographic proximity and to treat the objects as starting points for new works,” Laric explains on the site’s Info page. “All models can be downloaded and used without copyright restrictions.” In other words, go forth, remix, and copy, with the museum’s blessing.

Laric actually has a note on the Info page asking people to email him when they’ve used the models or re-created them in some fashion, and the site’s Gallery displays the results. They’re a mixed bag, from an uninspiring video that zooms in, out, and around one of the objects cast in silver to a delightfully trippy animated GIF of Einstein’s head. Most people don’t seem to have printed out the objects (I suppose 3D printers are not that ubiquitous just yet) but rather have taken to animating and toying with them in virtual 3D space.

Cyril's "Marble boy"

Cyril’s take on Ella Rose Curtois, “Marble boy”

One of the most successful of these is a surrealist take by an artist named Cyril, who’s plopped an oversized version of Ella Rose Curtois’s 19th-century sculpture of a marble player in the middle of an early-20th-century city street. Someone else named Boris Quezada has either printed out the same marble player and photographed it in his home or else Photoshopped it there. The sculpture is starkly white and looks wonderfully incongruous in its bland surroundings, raising a host of questions about the nature and value of copies and originals in our image-saturated culture. Museums will always be special places to visit, but there’s something strange and exciting about the possibility of bringing the museum home to you.

Boris Quezada's "Marble player"

Boris Quezada’s “Marble player”

09 Jan 14:53

Describe a typical day in your life as an artist

by A Photo Editor

Coffee, emails, more emails, Photoshop, Photoshop, Photoshop, rest. Somewhere in there I eat.

via 25 Questions for Alex Prager | BLOUIN ARTINFO.

30 Jan 19:05

THOMAS RUFF: “Aesthetic of the Pixel” (2008)

Elena Bulygina

jpegs are even better in real life


By David Campany, originally published in IANN magazine No.2, 2008

The photographic art of Thomas Ruff makes very particular demands of us and offers very particular kinds of pleasure, both aesthetic and intellectual. His work seems cold and dispassionate, willful, searching and perverse but at times surprisingly beautiful. Whether he is working with found photographs or shooting his own, the results are similar. He makes images that are at once familiar clichés and estranged visions of our collective photographic order. Ruff’s art dramatises photography for us as an image form that is always as public as it is private, and as anonymous as it is personal. The viewer may find themselves switching between thinking about the particular image they see before them and contemplating the state of ‘all photography’ in its terrifying and sublime totality.

Indeed what is particular about Ruff’s work is its potent ability to solicit individual and global responses that cannot be entirely reconciled. His images seem to belong to everybody and nobody and as a result we are neither free to look just as individuals nor to respond ‘collectively’ either. For obvious reasons I will try to leave aside your personal response and concentrate on what we might call the public or collective context.




Found images and archives have been of interest to vanguard artists at least since the 1920s with the rise of Dada, Surrealism and Cubism. This was the first era of the mass media, defined by the popular illustrated magazines and cinema. Since then artists have worked with found images in different ways but always in an attempt to make sense of a culture increasingly dominated by spectacle. In an age of distraction how do we hold on to what is important? How do we maintain meaningful relationships? How do we hold on to reason? How do we find alternative values? How do we map the ways mass culture constructs our notions of desire, beauty and significance? For many artists, using the imagery produced by mass culture is a necessity. Adapting the images that surround us is a way of making sense and staying sane. As Colin MacCabe put it  in his biography of the filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard, ‘In a world in which we are entertained from cradle to grave whether we like it or not, the ability to rework image and dialogue … may be the key to both psychic and political health.’




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. The hungry gathering and ordering of information proceeds according to rules but it is always holding off a potential collapse into chaos, because there is always something wild and unpredictable about the behaviour of images.  We feel the strain of that disaster more than ever as the world’s archives are themselves subject to digital re-archiving and redistribution via the internet.




When artists address the archive they align themselves with that confidence and that doubt, with the archive’s order and its barely contained anxiety. Pop, Minimalism and Conceptualism, perhaps the three most influential strands of post-war art, all prized the archive or the archival grid as their ideal form. We see it in Warhol’s screen-prints, in the sculptures of Donald Judd and Carl Andre, the installations of Sol Lewitt and Hanne Darboven and the photo work of Christian Boltanksi and Bernd & Hilla Becher. The archival grid has been art’s quasi-bureaucratic way to mimic and estrange the modern regimes of the image.




In Thomas Ruff’s JPEGs the grid is present in a number of ways. Firstly there is Ruff’s preference for working in series. Indeed all his work to date has been serial. The series presents whatever is particular about an image in the context of a general group. The effect is to simultaneously emphasize and de-emphasize whatever is specific about his chosen photographs. We see each image as unique but we see that uniqueness only by sensing the grouping or series of which it is a part. Meaning emerges as much from comparison and contrast as from any individual image. We cannot know simply by looking at them from which archives Ruff’s JPEGs have come. Certainly they come from Ruff’s archive, from his own assembled series. But they might also come from other archives. These might be images from the internet, for example. (In fact Ruff tells us theyare from the internet). He searched for the images online, often following links from one site to another, following his own routes as we all do. But what does it mean so say that an image is ‘from the internet’? Is the internet an archive? In one sense it is but it is too general a term. It is not so much an archive as an archive of archives. So Ruff’s JPEGs belong to at least three archives: his own, the internet, and the specific archives accessed online. They may also belong to a fourth archive, perhaps an original analogue archive that has been digitized and made available electronically. And they may belong to a fifth archive of collective memory and to a sixth archive of the viewer’s individual memory. And so on.

All images that appear on the internet and/or printed in books and magazines today are digitised.  Nearly all images are digital even if they originated in non-digital or pre-digital forms. Given this fact it is surprising how few of them ever wish to address the fact that they exist as masses of electronic information that take visual form as pixels. Ruff has done a great deal to introduce into photographic art what we might call an ‘art of the pixel’, allowing us to contemplate at an aesthetic and philosophical level the basic condition of the electronic image. Of course he does this not by showing us the images on screens but by making large scale photographic prints, blowing them up far beyond their photorealist resolution. This might be the first time some of these images have ever taken a material form.


Robert Capa, “Normandy Invasion,” June 6, 1944. Gelatin silver print.


The pixel has replaced the grain of photographic film. Either images are shot digitally or older analogue images are scanned and converted into electronic data.  Analogue photography developed an aesthetics of grain quite early on, especially through reportage.  In the 193os, 40s and 50s, graininess took on the connotations of ‘authenticity’, coded as a kind of limit to which the photographer and the equipment had been pushed. The most famous example is Robert Capa’s group of pictures from the D-Day landings at Omaha Beach during the Second World War. The indistinct haziness of the images was treated as a sign of the sheer urgency of the situation and of extreme human endurance (even though Capa’s grain was actually the result of hasty processing by an assistant in the darkroom).  In the post war decades photographers borrowed this convention, using grain as an expressionistic device to speak of limits of one kind or another – personal, aesthetic, technical, artistic. It’s in the work of everyone from William Klein and Robert Frank to Larry Clark and Nan Goldin. Today it is almost a cliché but for a while at least grain became a sign of the virtuous materiality of the image and of the virtuous, embodied photographer.

Pixels are quite different. They are grid-like, machinic and repetitive. They do not have the scattered chaos of grain. When we glimpse pixels we do not think of authenticity (although we may do one day). The pixel represents a cold technological limit, a confrontation with the virtual and bureaucratic order than secretly unites all images in a homogenous electronic continuum, whether they are holiday snapshots or military surveillance. But there is evidence that our response to the pixel is changing and we can measure something of that change through Thomas Ruff’s JPEGS.




Many of these photographs are images of unpredictability. Water, fire, smoke, steam, explosions, ruins. These are all phenomena that cannot be mapped or modelled in their detail. They are in a sense irrational, anarchic. We see these subjects throughout Ruff’s  grids of pixels. We switch from looking at figuration to abstraction and back again. The result is a great tension or drama. And it is tempting to see in this drama something of the character of modern life with its great forces of rationality and irrationality.



Installation view.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This essay was first written for a IANN magazine.  Ruff’s JPEG series doesn’t work very well on the internet or computer screen: the images need to be experienced as printed matter, moving from screen to page or wall.


(All rights reserved. Text @ and courtesy David Campany. Images @ Thomas Ruff and David Zwirner Gallery)

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