Ralf Brueck is a Düsseldorf–based photographer who shoots all over the globe, examing the weirdness of the man's impact on the landscape, reimagining it as something that is believably extraterrestrial. He was recently included in Humble Art Foundation’s group show 42: Occultisms, which is showcasing photographers whose work “addresses spiritual, ritual and paranormal phenomena.” We spoke to him about his practice, because his stuff is great.
Hi Ralf! You studied under Thomas Ruff, what did you take away from that?
I learned from Thomas Ruff that a radically artistic attitude is more important than all stylistic categories or genres. For me it is crucial to critically examine my own work, repeatedly go to unsafe areas and start over again. Last but not least I learned how essential it is to remain true to your line.
Your earlier series like in Transformers and DAF are landscapes that pick out really powerful shapes in the built environment like rollercoasters and anomalous structures. How did you go from shooting those types of photographs to more abstracted things happening in the Distortion and Dekonstruktion series?
Those earlier series were influenced by the connection between the Düsseldorf School of Photography (people like Andreas Gursky, the Bechers and Candida Höfer) and the New American Photography (like Richard Misrach and Barbara Kruger). Although their visual results could not be more apart from each other, I wanted to step away from the documentary-based approach they shared. I needed more control over the image, so I started manipulating the image rather than depicting it. People often tell me I work more like a painter.
Are the photographs meant in any way to look psychedelic?
No, but they do. People often say they are surrealistic. I never liked the Surrealists and consider my work more related to pop art. Artists like William Eggleston, Stephen Shore but also the ones who work in different genres like Andy Warhol, Paul McCarthy, Donald Judd and Walther de Maria had a great influence on me even if my work is a lot different.
You're obviously influenced by sci-fi, any favourite films?
Contentwise, World on a Wire by Fassbinder and Dark Star by John Carpenter and also movies like Westworld or Silent Running, visually 2001: A Space Odyssey, the old Tron from 1987 and younger productions like Inception and the just released Interstellar.
And, if your topics are chosen very carefully, what sort of process do you go through for that? More than reading travel magazines probably.
Quite often my vision grows during light sleep. Oh and yes, sometimes I actually start to flip through travel guides looking for locations. But most of the time I work conceptually. My last series was inspired by the Cologne Cathedral, so after that I knew I have to visit and photograph all the gothic cathedrals in France that are similarly impressive.
Do you have a fantasy shoot location, on the moon, under the sea...?
My vision is to move even further away from actual photography and documentation. Still using my photography as starting point, but then using digital tools for image manipulation more and more radically. This process has already started.
Thanks for talking to Canvas Ralf!