Traditionally, photograms are made by placing objects onto photosensitive paper and exposing the paper to light, thereby recording the silhouettes of the objects. Captivated by this method but seeking to work beyond its limitations, Ruff collaborated with a 3-D imaging expert to design a virtual darkroom that would enable him to experiment with an infinite range of forms. Unbeholden to objects present, like the scissors, ribbons, and paperclips of Moholy-Nagy's photograms, he is able to specify the size, material, color, and transparency of new digital matter. This collection of invented forms, together with simulated paper surface and fully adjustable light conditions, comprises a digital darkroom environment in which Ruff can access boundless possibilities and ultimate control. The final chromogenic prints describe an enigmatic photographic world of nebulous shadows, spheres, zigzags, and hard edges against richly colored backgrounds, a mesmerizing visual frontier of his own making.
The Negatives series are a direct result of Ruff's photogram process, during which he has constantly explored the dynamics of positive and negative imagery. The white and slate-blue images are inverted versions of early-twentieth-century nude studies. Reversing the negative's role as a means to an end--the master image from which the print is created--Ruff digitally transforms sepia-toned albumen prints into dramatically contrasting negative portraits, imbuing the posing nude subjects with sculptural dimensionality and white marble skin tones. Exploring historic techniques with a consistently inventive approach, Ruff continues to expand the subjects, possibilities, and appearance of photographs.