As sense of light and space
by Lizabeth A. Johnson
"When I create a still live, I often just take an object and try to create a different world with it. It changes from one image to another."
Peter Ruting was quite young when he was first exposed to the arts, thought it was several years before he made a decision to become a photographer. "My mother was interested in drawing, painting and design, so I was very close to those types of media", he explains. "It was not until I was about sixteen, however, that I became interested in photography". His decision to become a photographer was solidified during four years of art school in Amsterdam, and he subsequently became a commercial photographer based in that city.
Ruting was satisfied with the assignments he got in the commercial world until a recession hit the Netherlands during the early nineteen eighties. Budgetary cuts limited his creative freedom, and he decided at that point to try to create a different type of work. When asked about making a decision such as this at such an unstable time, Ruting replies, "until the recession I was happy with the work I was doing. I was working primarily in the advertising industry, doing shots for bank corporations, cigarette manufacturers, alcoholic drink companies and the Dutch dairy. I decided I really wanted to try something new and challenging as we entered the recession however, so I slowly began to move towards the fine art end of photography."
As Ruting's interest in fine art photography grew, he continued to do work for advertising, but his approach to his commercial work began to change. " I decided to continue to do commercial work," he states, "but the manner in which I approached the work began to change. Over the last three or four years in particular, I have been able to create images that are more of a combination of commercial and fine arts work. Currently I'm doing a lot of annual reports. To a great extend, I choose to take on an assignment based on the concept. If I like the concept, I accept the job. The [commissioned] work I do now must give me the inner freedom to create. I want to have strong feelings about all of the work I do, not just my free work. I no longer accept work that is given to me in a strictly drawn layout that says, "create this photograph". There is no feeling for me in that type of work."
The work Ruting creates for clients is, in fact, becoming closer to his personal work every day. "I will feel very close to a concept when I start out whether it's for an annual report or for my free work," he stresses. "The Sinar calendar is an example of this. I did those photographs in Portugal as work for my self, but the concept was one that Sinar felt they could use as well."
A great deal of Ruting's personal work is still life. "Each piece however, is designed as a separate entity rather than an element of a larger group. Each piece is inspired by something different," he explains. "In the case of the picture called 'Spaced Out' (see above) it was simply inspired by the paper. At the time I was working on the famous Zanders calendar, for this paper manufacturer. As I worked with the paper, I discovered all kinds of interesting things. I achieved the pink shadow in the image by painting the other side of the paper red."
The inspiration for the photograph "the game" came about as a direct result of the object contained within the photograph. "The ball I found in a flea market in Switzerland," Ruting recalls. "My first daughter Inez found the skittle in her garden; she thought it might be of interest to me. Sometimes I will have things in my house for months before I put them together as a still life."
Although Ruting does much of his work at his Amsterdam studio, he also often works on his still lives in his other studio, located in Portugal. Which studio he is using determines, to a large extend, what type of lighting he will choose to use. "In Amsterdam I work with flashlight. In Portugal, however, I work almost exclusively with daylight. Over the past few years, I've become very interested in daylight because it gives me a certain kind of excitement while I'm working. The light is constantly changing, and you have to do things at precisely the right moment. If you miss the right time, you have to wait for the next day to attempt the shot again. Even then the light will be slightly different which adds to the excitement."
While Ruting does not work commercially in the United States at this time, the Weston gallery in Carmel, CA, represents his fine art work. When asked how he came to be represented by such a prestigious gallery he replies, "I was visiting the United States, and I met Carol Abraham at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara who saw my work and said I should show my work at the Weston gallery in Carmel. At that time, I was not familiar with the gallery, so she brought me there, and I showed my portfolio. When they accepted me as a client, I didn't realize what an honor it was to be associated with them. Since then, I've learned about their reputation in the art world, and they have represented me ever since." Currently, Ruting is commercially represented by Photonica New York. For his artwork and assignments he is represented in Amsterdam by his son David.
After spending time in both Europe and the United States, Ruting has determined that there is not a great difference between most of the work currently being done in Europe and the United States. He has, however, noticed one major difference in the attitude toward photographers on both sides on the Atlantic. "In America the top photographers are treated much more like heroes or celebrities then the top photographers in Europe. The top photographers in Europe are recognized, certainly, but nowhere near the way they are in America. I found that to be quite surprising." After all, it is the quality of an artist's work, not the artist's name or geographic location that will determine a piece's worth. With that important fact in mind, it is apparent that Peter Ruting's work will be respected and admired for many years to go.
Lizabeth A. Johnson is a fine art photographer and writer, and a frequent contributor to various art magazines.