Book Review: Right Place Right Time by Robert Rutöd


Being at the right place at the right time is usually associated with happiness and success. But what happens when we are at the right place at the wrong time? Do we even know that this is the right place? And what if it turns out that it is the wrong place after all, but the right time?! It may seem like a tired cliche, but an enormous aspect of good photography really is about being at the right place at the right time. Truly good photography makes it easy for the viewer to say “I could have done that”. But to make something look easy takes a great deal of skill and effort. Rutöd provides nothing less than the proper combination of visual irony, juxtaposition of people, place, and timing.


In her foreword, Aline Smithson mentions the impression and staying power of Rutöd’s images. Her observations of his work quantify the ability of a photographer to produce images that convey far more than first meets the eye. For myself, reviewing Rutöd’s images made me recall a time in my publishing career when I was viewing literally thousands of images each day, but Rutöd’s images are the contrast to the rule. In general, stock photography being used in educational publishing is a flood of generalized, banal images that are mostly meant to illustrate broad topics. Before the widespread use of the internet for image research, editors relied on books shipped out from agencies. Amid the volumes of general stock photography catalogs, there were gems that an editor would pull out for special projects; the ones you remember and value for the visual wealth they could provide. Images that would make an editor plead to the Art Director to spend extra budget on certain images — because they would make the project sing. For me, Rutöd’s images would be in that special set of images.


The images Rutöd presents are often ones with a dark humor or tragicomic view: The blind man who finds orientation by putting his stick in a tram track, the helpless swan that finds itself frozen to the vast stretch of ice, or the amputee operator of a shooting range set up in a ruined building. It gets macabre with the portraits of the Pope, Hitler and Mussolini decorating the labels of wine bottles. Again, as Smithson’s foreword attests, “We need Robert’s photographs to make us realize what we are missing, and allow the levity of his work to not only see ourselves with amusement, but to simply, see ourselves.”

Rutöd’s book made me smile, smirk, and comment aloud at the visual wit and insight he possesses. His humor that exists in moments of reflection, or moments of keen observation, are perhaps exactly what we need in a time when so much of the world is anything but humorous.


Right Time Right Place by Robert Rutöd
Foreword by Aline Smithson
120 pages, 55 color plates, 21 x 24 cm.
Language: English
Print run: 300 copies.
Red metal foil embossed hard cover
ISBN 978–3–200–04200–1

Robert Rutöd is a photographer from Vienna, Austria. He has been photographing for almost four decades, and has had numerous international exhibitions of his work. Right Time Right Place received several awards, including the New York Photo Award, the Special Prize of the Czech Center of Photography, and most recently Artist of the Year at Dong Gang International Photo Festival in South Korea.

To find out more, and order a book, signed copies are available on Rutöd’s website:

Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.