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Thomas Struth

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Surname: Struth

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Thomas Struth has led a remarkable life as an artist. Through his devotion to photography and consistent curiosity about people and places, Struth has created a body of work that provides insight into human nature and society. His dedication to capturing the essence and spirit of his subjects, whether individuals, crowds, cities, or souls, has allowed him to gain renown as an accomplished contemporary photographer. 

While Struth continues to push the boundaries of photographic technique and subject matter, his photos remind us to observe the details in the world around us. Struth's lifelong journey pursuing artistic excellence stands as an inspiration. His photographs have made an indelible impression on all those fortunate enough to view them.

With a meticulous and contemplative style, Struth invites us to slow down and observe the world. His influential body of work has been exhibited internationally. It is held in the collections of major museums like the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London. Struth continues pushing contemporary photography's boundaries through his diverse and thought-provoking photographs.

Thomas Struth BIOGRAPHY

Thomas Struth
Image Credit: Artsy

Early Life and Education: Struth's Upbringing in German

Struth was born in Geldern, Germany in 1954. He grew up surrounded by art, as his parents were both art teachers. Struth's father was an art instructor, and his mother taught art history. Struth initially studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy from 1973 to 1980. During this time, he trained as a painter under renowned German painters Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke.

In 1976, Struth travelled to Italy and was inspired by Renaissance paintings he saw there. He began incorporating photography into his art, taking black-and-white photos of Italian architecture and landscapes—this marked Struth's transition from image to photography as his primary medium.

Struth earned international recognition for his large-scale colour photographs depicting dense crowds in public places like museums, churches and city streets. His pictures explore human relationships within these spaces and how people interact with and are shaped by their environments.

In the 1980s, Struth's photographs grew in scale and detail. His museum photographs, in particular, captured the grandeur of historic architecture and how visitors engage with renowned works of art. These compelling images cemented Struth's status as a Düsseldorf School of Photography pioneer.

What is Thomas Struth known for?

Thomas Struth
Image Credit: Collector Daily

As an acclaimed contemporary photographer, Thomas Struth has spent over 40 years capturing portraits, landscapes, and city scenes that provide insight into human society and relationships. His large-scale colour photographs invite you to ponder humanity's place within constructed and natural environments. Struth's work takes you through museums, churches, jungles, and urban spaces in Europe, Asia, and beyond.

Career highlights

Thomas Struth
Image Credit: Gallery Viewer

Artistic Influences: Struth's Photographic Inspirations

As an artist, Thomas Struth was influenced by many photographers who came before him. 

Two of his biggest inspirations were August Sander and Eugène Atget.

August Sander

1876-1964

Sander was a German portrait photographer known for his series "People of the 20th Century," featuring portraits of individuals from all walks of life in Weimar Germany. Struth was inspired by how Sander captured his subjects with objectivity and directness. Struth emulated this straightforward and honest style in his large-scale portrait photographs.

Eugène Atget

1857-1927

Atget was a French photographer known for his photographs documenting the streets and architecture of Paris. Struth was attracted to Atget's almost anthropological interest in establishing a city and society. Atget's style influenced Struth's early black-and-white photographs of empty German streets. Struth aimed to continue Atget's legacy of capturing the essence of a place and time in a straightforward yet artistic manner.

  

In addition to Sander and Atget, Struth was influenced by other photographers of the New Objectivity movement, such as Albert Renger-Patzsch. Struth appreciated these photographers' approaches of direct observation and unembellished documentation of subjects. 

By fusing the styles of his predecessors with a contemporary sensibility, Struth developed his distinct style of large-format photography focused on place, culture, society, and human relationships. His influential work continues a long tradition of objective yet artistic photography.

Thomas Struth List of Work

Thomas Struth
Image Credit: Monica De Cardenas

Major Artworks: Struth's Most Famous Photograph Series

Thomas Struth is renowned for several notable photographs depicting urban landscapes, museum visitors interacting with famous works of art and dense jungle foliage.

The Museum Photographs

1989-1992

These large-scale colour photographs capture museumgoers observing famous works of art in cities across Europe, including London, Paris, Dresden, and Florence. Struth positions his camera to capture both the observers and the object of their observation within the same frame, exploring the relationship between the viewer and the viewed. The resulting images are compelling studies of human interaction with iconic artistic masterpieces.

The Jungle Photographs

1998-2008

Struth travelled to jungles in Asia, South America, and Australia to photograph lush rainforests and dense tropical foliage. The large-format "Jungle" photographs highlight tropical forests' depth, texture, and patterns, depicting the vibrant chaos of untamed nature. Struth's precision and technical skill allow viewers to appreciate details that might otherwise be missed in such dense scenes. These meditative landscapes invite contemplation of humanity's complex relationship with the natural world.

The City Photographs

Late 1970s and 1980s

These sombre black-and-white images depict empty streets, alleys, parking lots and office buildings in Düsseldorf, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart. Struth's choice of stark, impersonal subjects and muted tones gives the photographs a melancholy, thought-provoking quality and a sense of humanity's absence in modern built environments.

 

Through these and other series, Struth has secured his place as one of the most important contemporary photographers, with a remarkable ability to evoke ideas about human existence and society through depictions of the world around us. His influential photographs can be found in significant museum collections worldwide.  


Recent Projects: Struth's Current Artistic Endeavors

In recent years, Struth has continued pushing contemporary photography's boundaries through innovative projects exploring new subjects and themes. His latest series has moved into more abstract, minimalist realms, focusing on details of architectural forms, scientific specimens, and industrial landscapes.  

Struth's recent architectural photographs zoom in on structural details of iconic 20th-century buildings, including the Seagram Building in New York and the Hubertus House in Berlin. 

The series Unconscious Places explores the esthetic qualities of scientific and medical specimens, industrial machinery, and technology.

Whether turning a familiar cityscape on its side or unveiling the sublime beauty in a microchip, Struth opens the viewer's eyes to new ways of seeing and understanding the world around them. His minimalist and abstract style encourages contemplation of the fundamental forms that shape the built and natural environments. Struth's masterful photographs transform everyday life's overlooked details into compelling art subjects.


Exhibitions

Struth now lives and works in Berlin and New York City. His photographs have been exhibited in major museums worldwide, including:

  • Guggenheim Museum

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art


Legacy and Impact: Struth's Contributions to Photography

Thomas Struth has significantly contributed to photography through his influential large-scale colour photographs. His work explores human interaction with environments ranging from nature to technology and helps viewers see familiar surroundings in new ways.

Pioneering Large-Scale Photography

Struth was an early pioneer of large-scale colour photography. His six-foot-high monumental prints immerse viewers in the details and textures of his subjects. This scale was unprecedented for colour photography and helped establish it as a medium suitable for significant art exhibitions. Struth's embrace of this format has inspired many other photographers to experiment with large-scale prints.

Exploring Human Habitats 

A recurring theme in Struth's work is humanity's relationship with constructed environments. His photographs of city streets, museums, churches, and family portraits examine how people interact with these spaces. Struth's large-scale, highly detailed style highlights striking architectural features and small details that reveal how people live and work in these places. His sensitive, unposed photographs provide insight into human behaviour and connections within shared spaces.

Influencing Contemporary Photography

Struth's contemplative, formally composed style has hugely influenced contemporary photography. His pioneering embrace of large-scale color prints and interest in human interaction with habitats has inspired generations of photographers. Struth's photographs are held in the collections of major museums worldwide, and he has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, affirming his status as a pivotal figure in contemporary art.

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