Thomas Ruff and the Photographic Real – Laurence Counihan

Saturday, 14th May 2022 , 11.30am

Conference Space, Nano Nagle Place


Cork DFAS Lecture Programme in partnership with Nano Nagle Place

The truth claim of photography can be understood as the generally accepted position that what is depicted in the photographic image is an accurate representation of reality. During the 20th-century many of the most dominant theories of photography aligned themselves with this position, wherein the photograph was uniquely privileged for its ability to represent the real in a mimetic, or indexical, manner. Indeed the functioning of innumerable artistic, documentary, governmental, judicial, scientific, social, and personal fields rely, to varying degrees, on the general acceptance of this claim. However, in our contemporary digitally saturated moment this long held position has never felt more tenuous, as we are acutely aware of the mutability of the photographic image, and how the real which it ostensibly depicts can be quite easily modified, edited, staged, and recontextualised. This lecture will consider the relationship which the medium has with the real, employing the work of contemporary artist Thomas Ruff as a vehicle for the discussion. Originally trained under the tutelage of Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, Ruff’s work is characterised by a generalised skepticism towards traditional ideas of photographic representation. By focusing principally on the digital aspect of Ruff’s practice, we will analyse how the artist operates to undermine the as-is-given causal connection between photographic imagery and reality, whilst simultaneously proposing an alternative conception of what exactly can be understood to constitute the photographic real.

Please note: Lectures are for CorkDFAS members only.  Guests are welcome and may attend a maximum of two lectures per year for a charge of €10 per lecture. Details of membership fees can be found on the CorkDFAS website:


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