Thomas Ruff
[Photographer, b. 1958, Zell, Germany, lives in Dusseldorf, Germany.]

 Most of the photos we come across today aren’t really authentic anymore—they have the authenticity of a manipulated and prearranged reality. You have to know the conditions of a particular photograph in order to understand it properly because the camera just copes what is in front of it. 
 I think that historically photographs may have been made in a naive and honest way, when photographers believed in the “pencil of nature” and recording what was in front of the camera. But photography quickly came to be used in a prejudicial way, losing its innocence and consequently its ability to communicate. 
 If you stand in front of a customs officer, you try to make a face like the one in your passport. So why should my portraits be communicative at a time when you can be prosecuted for your sympathies? 
 The photogram is a kind of “pencil of nature.” It’s cameraless photography—you don’t see the objects but only their shadows, which reminds me of Plato’s cave. 
 Photography has always been a prosthesis for the human eye, in fact for man as a whole, his consciousness, his life. After all, at fifty, who can still remember exactly what he looked like at sixteen, what furniture used to be in the living room, what the street he lived on looked like. In this case, a prosthesis for memory. It can even provide you with an image of the great-grandfather you only know about from hearsay. 
 A lot of people look through the photographs at what they want to see. They simply don’t see that they are photographic images. 
 The newspaper photograph is the stepchild of photography. It’s cut at random to fit into an article, captioned, and turned into an illustration of the text. 
 I used to say that the picture has an autonomous existence apart from what it represents, or that it acquires a life of its own. Maybe when I said that, I meant thinking about how you make pictures, but the reality is still there anyway because there really was someone sitting in front of the camera when the picture was taken. So now, do we have autonomy? 
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