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Wolfgang Tillmans

Pictures to See the World

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Wolfgang Tillmans

The German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans is an underground icon, known for his work which defies genre and is distinguished by an ongoing investigation into the photographic medium; both its historic foundations and future innovations. Tillmans has exhibited extensively and lives between London and Berlin, where he also runs his own gallery space Between Bridges. He was the first photographer - and the first non-English person - to be awarded the Turner Prize.

Wolfgang Tillmans first gained attention for his casual looking, snapshot like portraits of friends (most notably, fashion designer Lutz Huelle and artist Alexandra Bircken). His photos have appeared in magazines such as i-D, Spex, Interview, SZ-Magazin, and Butt Magazine, and established his reputation as a documentarian of his generation, particularly of the London club and gay scenes. As a boy Tillmans was taken by the work of contemporary artists Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol and on a visit to England he discovered British youth culture, including fashion and music magazines, which would heavily influence his work. Tillmans’ art embraces all forms of photography, including photocopies, abstraction, portraits, still life, sky photographs, astrophotography, aerial shots, and landscapes. Together these genres are bound by an intimate observation of the artist’s surroundings and motivated by social issues, especially queer politics and gender identity. Recently Tillmans has moved to working almost exclusively with digital photography and developed an installation style where unframed photos, inkjet prints, postcards, and magazine clippings are pinned or taped to the gallery walls in nonhierarchical arrangements.

TASCHEN’s books on Tillmans’ work like Neue Welt collect diverse images taken by the photographer from all around the globe. Recently the artist photographed musician Frank Ocean for his hit album Blonde and launched an anti-Brexit campaign in anticipation of the UK’s referendum to exit the EU. Tillmans' practice is always engaged with the contemporary moment. From behind the camera, he captures intimate portraits of the world and the lives of its inhabitants.