Thomas Ruff’s work features prominently in Photography Spotlight, an exhibition at the V&A celebrating the opening of the first phase of the museum’s new Photography Centre. As a special commission to inaugurate the space, Ruff has created a new body of work titled Tripe/Ruff, based on Linnaeus Tripe’s paper negatives of India and Burma from the V&A’s collection.
A British army captain, Tripe was one of the first photographers to have surveyed the landscapes and buildings in India and Burma (now Myanmar) in the mid-nineteenth century. As Ruff explains in a video about the commission, "I’m very interested in the history of the practice of photography. I think in the very beginning the photographer had to solve a lot of different problems—papers, chemicals, printing techniques. . . . I’ve never thought about the paper negative. I’m really surprised, astonished, and fascinated [by] how they made such beautiful photographs." For his new series, the artist has inverted Tripe’s negatives into positive images, enlarging them to a scale where it is possible to see the structure of the originals and details such as clouds, which Tripe had retouched in his photographs to enhance them. "A lot of things are forgotten by not showing them," Ruff says, "Making them visible is extremely interesting to me." Tripe/Ruff extends the artist’s engagement with a range of techniques as part of his photographic practice, which includes analog and digital exposures, computer-generated imagery, archival photographs, and pictures culled and manipulated from the media.
At the V&A, "Ruff has digitally manipulated Tripe’s negatives and then blown up the prints so they become even more detailed," Sean O’Hagan writes in The Guardian; "The results are fascinating in a cerebral way—especially Tripe’s painted-on clouds."
Friday, October 12, 7 PM
The Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre
As part of a three-week focus on photography across the V&A, on opening night Ruff will be in conversation with Martin Barnes, the museum’s senior curator of photography, about the new series.
Image: Thomas Ruff, tripe_01 Amerapoora. Mohdee Kyoung., 2018