Photographer Thomas Ruff, 58, Thinks Visual Literacy Is As Important As Reading

Self Portrait of Thomas Ruff

Self Portrait of Thomas Ruff

"I’m not very ideological, so I think that digitisation has just presented us with a new tool in much the same way as adding a 500mm zoom lens to a camera that previously only had a normal lens does. Digital processing, the longer lens: they are just new tools. It’s the author – and how he’s working – who creates the image, not the camera or its system. Using an analogue camera you might shoot say three hundred photographs, and if you are lucky there will be one that is correct or perfect. Now, with digitisation, you can use the best parts from two or three different photographs. So in a way the result is the same, but the procedure or the workflow has changed  . . . 

It is maybe because photography has been misused such a lot that I think you have to be very careful when you’re looking at a photograph. You always have to know the conditions under which it has been made – because otherwise you cannot read it, or you could misunderstand it, or the image can be misused. Since photography is such a realistic medium, it pretends that everything you’re looking at was in front of the camera. But in the meantime it wasn’t. . . .

I think it was once said that 'The illiterate of the future is not the person who cannot read, but the one who cannot read photographs properly.” And maybe this is something that has followed me through my thirty two years of working with photographs.'" - Thomas Ruff via Foto8