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Wolfgang Tillmans

February 24, 2014

The big misunderstanding of the 1990s was people thinking that in photography it’s all about “anything goes,” people snapping snapshots. As if taking lots of pictures is interesting as an activity itself. The notion that you can take pictures of anything has been around for a long time and is, in terms of art, not very interesting.

I don’t want people to assume that my pictures are any more or less real than anyone else’s – they are all real because they all happened in front of the camera. But then at the same time they are all constructs they are not real, they are photographs, and they are my way of making, or trying to make, the camera do what I want it to dy. It’s always more like an attempt. And getting better at it is a life long process.

Making a portrait is a fundamental artistic act – and the process of it is a very direct human exchange, which is what I find interesting about it. The dynamics of it never change, no matter how successful you are or how successful the sitter is or how famous anybody involved is. The actual dynamics of vulnerability and exposure and embarrassment and honesty do not change, ever.

NK(interviewer) One thing we’ve been talking about, without having mentioned the word, is contingency and a kind of non-definitiveness – that one can’t exactly say in one sentence what your work is about, really. In fact, it’s almost about the rejection of being about something, and that’s maybe made it difficult for people to put their finger on it.

View from above