Q&A: Ralf Brueck

Then I kissed her, 2011, 183x220cm, c-print, plexiglass, woodframe.
From the series
Distortion © Ralf Brueck

Post by Martin Brink

Despite Ralf Brueck's background in German photography and the feeling of that background in his work, I've always thought that there's something distinctly unique about his work. That uniqueness is often why I come to appreciate different artists, like I've come to appreciate Ralf's work. Over the last few years we have exchanged some emails, and I therefore thought it would be interesting to ask him some questions that I don't think I've asked him before.

Ralf Brueck (b. 1966 Düsseldorf) is a younger exponent of the Düsseldorf School of Photography, which has achieved worldwide renown through Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth and Thomas Ruff, whose master student he became in 2002. From 1996 to 2003, he studied at the Art Academy Düsseldorf. Ralf Brueck was one of the last students of the Bernd and Hilla Becher class at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf before he decided to become a student of Professor Thomas Ruff.

His earlier works were more influenced by the connection between the Düsseldorf School of Photography and the New American Photography. Since 2009 he has moved towards digital image manipulation.

Wouldnt it be nice, 2011, 220 x 179 cm, c-print, plexiglass, woodframe
From the series Distortion © Ralf Brueck

Martin Brink: Hello Ralf Brueck, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. What are you working on while answering these questions?

Ralf Brueck: I'm in the middle of preparing a shoot of a shopping mall that goes out of business this year. It's in Düsseldorf, the place where I live.

MB: You studied at the prestigious Düsseldorf school under Bernd Becher and Thomas Ruff. How do you feel this has impacted your work, and have you ever felt direct or indirect expectations and pressure to make certain kinds of work?

RB: Some days ago I met a curator from the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf. At the start of our meeting he told me how much he likes my older works like "Timecapsule" or "DAF." He seemed troubled by my "Distortion" and "Dekonstruktion" series because they don't show pictures that origin traditionally.

Younger curators seem to be able to more easily access my work (they really dig it) than the deep seated teams of museum directors who are still a bit afraid of liking it. They probably want to stick to the idea that a photograph should always look like a photograph. That is really old-school.

Hard work is always rewarded, 2014, 200 x 137cm, c-print, plexiglass, woodframe.
From the series
Distortion © Ralf Brueck

MB: Speaking of Düsseldorf, how's the photography/art scene there today? I can imagine it being quite competitive, but is it still as vibrant as it once was?

RB: We have some important museums and there is a lot going on in the alternative scene. A lot of students graduate every year from the art academy. This keeps the competition high. 

MB: When I look at your most recent work, for example "Distortion," I don’t look at "truths" or documentation. I don't feel they have a real function or use other than being visual art. They're just there to look at, the way that good art can function. Is this the idea, or do you also want to open up doors and question how photography can be used, especially in the arts?

RB: A little bit from all you have said is true. The decision to move away from realism dealt with the interest in exposing myself differently to photography and was based in being an artist. I don't want to repeat what artistic photography was about in the past. Using digital tools feels just as normal as for a painter using a brush.

MB: A boring final standard question, but one that I'm curious about. I'm not necessarily only interested in those that have been your main inspirations and taught you the most, but which are your favorite photographers and artists working today?

RB: Thomas Ruff continues to evolve and is still experimental in his work. For several years my inspiration has come from painters and drawers like Raymond Pettibon, Jonathan Meese and Lucian Freud.

Martin Brink is a photographer and artist based in Helsingborg, Sweden.

A day after tomorrow, 2011, 158 x 220, c-print, plexiglass, woodframe.
From the series
© Ralf Brueck