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“Wolfgang Tillmans: Artist, Photographer, or neither?”

Wolfgang Tillmans Exhibition Catalogue CoverI’ve posted a new PhotographyBLOG article called “Wolfgang Tillmans: Artist, Photographer, or neither?”, in which I explore my reponse to the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition currently being held at Tate Britain in London.

“It seemed to me that Tillmans has somehow managed to forge a lucrative career out of taking snaps of his normal, everyday life…I can’t help feeling that this lack of photographic competence may have contributed to Tillmans being considered to be an artist, rather than a photographer.”

PhotographyBLOG Article: “Wolfgang Tillmans: Artist, Photographer, or neither?”

Published: Friday, August 08, 2003

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Reader Comments

  1. This might be an example the "Art of Spin". A skill more important that good technique.

    sailesh at 06:00pm on Friday, August 08, 2003

  2. Rob Robson emailed me on 11/08 to voice his opinion:

    "I read with interest your article on Tillmans. I find that you have echoed my own thoughts on seeing the work of many so-called photographic artists. When I joined the local camera club (Toronto, Canada), I was concerned that they would hold the opinion that blurry, out-of-focus images of objects and people at odd angles were desirable. To my relief, the club considers good photography to be the same as I consider it: well composed, exposed, and focussed images. Nonetheless, there is a crowd out there with different tastes who find value in the work of people like Tillmans. I have often wondered about this. I think part of the explanation is the same as the Emperor's new clothes, no one has the guts to say its junk. There is also a clique of people who claim to live for the arts and drift about extolling the virtues of various self-titled artists. I have found these people are more concerned about being seen to enjoy the 'right' things than to enjoy what they actually like. To say one thinks the art is junk is instant ostracization. My other observatation is that these art groupies generally have no talent of their own and virtually nothing in common with the actual artists that I know (all of whom are both passionate and knowledgeable about their work). It is refreshing to find someone who is willing to say that a collection of 4x6 prints is nothing but a bunch of snapshots. I applaud your candour."

    Rob Robson

    Mark Goldstein at 01:20pm on Tuesday, August 12, 2003

  3. The practitioner is the person who knows how to use the camera. The thinker is the person with the ideas. To be an artist (or photographer or whatever) you need to wear both hats. Art without knowledge of practice can be full of great ideas but knowing your area of practice through and through enables those ideas to flower. Practice without ideas gets your picture in to Amateur Photographer magazine.

    I need to go and see the Tillmans exhibition and work out where on the scale he lies. I've got a free ticket, actually, from the Cruel and Tender thing.

    Tom Morris at 12:49am on Saturday, August 16, 2003

  4. What did you think of the Cruel and Tender exhibition Tom? Personally I think all those pictures of water cooling towers by that German couple would look great in Amateur Photographer!

    Mark Goldstein at 01:06am on Saturday, August 16, 2003

  5. I loved Cruel and Tender - especially William Eggleston. Stephen Shore was good too. The Bechers are okay. Walker Evans - more a temple than a gallery that bit. Lewis Baltz was excellent. Cruel and Tender was a really amazing look back. Even with it's omissions (there were a few pictures which I really wanted them to have, or have presented differently) it has really sealed photography as an art for today but provided the perspective of the previous generations (Evans, Winogrand etc.)

    (Need to get back in to writing about photography esp. with the Photography & Video degree course looming...)

    Tom Morris at 05:30am on Saturday, August 16, 2003

  6. Tillmans is just using his camera the way that most people who know little about art photography would expect of photography. Most people assume that photos are only for capturing fleeting moments in other peopls lives. They only see some other types of photography in the printed news and magazines. They have little insight into photography as a creative process. They see photography as similar to airbrush.... a visual process but rarely as a process of 'true' artistry.

    Tillman's work may just be what most people expect from the lifestyle of an artist. They want to see that artists drink, party, hanging out, and acting horny. Its analogous to wearing an artist's hat to show that you are an artist.

    Most people don't understand that art isn't a lifestyle. Its a collection of insights and processes which allow you to express what you want to others with the materials at hand.

    All he showed with his photos was his lifestyle. Whether he did it as a way to thumb his nose at others' expectations of his lifestyle or his photo were truly was a sloppy creative expression will have to be sorted out by the quality of his later work.

    Robert Grenetz at 08:51pm on Sunday, November 16, 2003

  7. Ah ha, it appears that you have finally worked out where the trenches are in the world of photography. Having not seen any of Tillmans work, I cannot really give a full comment but your description brings to mind work I have seen in the past. Comments such 'What the hell is that about' 'Absolute rubbish' and 'how much is he being paid' are words which would spring to mind if I ventured down south to see the exhibition. Unfortunately the UK art scene has for many years managed to be conned by many a snake oil photographer and long may it continue otherwise it would give us nothing to complain about. My only bugbear is that some truly gifted and very creative photographers young and old do not get a look in with their work, which is the real crime.

    glad at 12:56pm on Tuesday, December 09, 2003

  8. Mark,

    I haven't seen this particular show but I still enjoyed your comment:

    "Modern art" these days often amounts to Emperor's new clothes.. Being part of the "scene" usually makes it hard for me to point the finger.. Anyway, I'd really wish that art would become again a topic that no one feels incompetent to judge on their own..

    Thanks for shouting out loud,


    Ben Eden at 01:36pm on Saturday, December 13, 2003

  9. In my view art should be seen and judged by more than just a few grizzled art critics...

    Great website and photographs by the way :-)
    I've a added a link to your site here:

    Mark Goldstein at 01:52pm on Sunday, December 14, 2003

  10. Mark,

    Thanks. I dug out a link to a hillarious article by Dave Barry I read on the plane a few month ago. It says it all.. and better, because it makes you laugh. Until you realize that it's based on true stories..

    Hey, wanna make a modern art project by, say, counting all the characters of the article above. Then you'd pop a slide containing one character each into an armada of slide projectors (you'd conveniently get the institutions mentioned in the article to foot the bill) and finally project it all, letter by letter.. On the shiny wall of the Tate Mondern, perhaps?

    What do you think? Too modest? OK, let's go for digital projectors, that's much more "in."



    P.S. A quiz: Ever seen any "video art" that has impressed you positively in any way? (No, being impressed by how small/powerful video projectors can get doesn't count.)

    Ben Eden at 07:59pm on Tuesday, December 16, 2003

  11. The truth is always funnier than stuff that's made up, and usually more bizarre too. Trust us Brits to lead the way :)

    Mark Goldstein at 12:52pm on Wednesday, December 17, 2003

  12. hehehe the miami herald article sure is funny and I think it is a good idea to put sofas in art galleries. As for the slide projector scam ( sorry art project), as I only have one slide projector (hanimex), perhaps I could have a 1st year art student dressed in a Mcdonalds uniform showing each slide ( 5,000 plain black and 5,000 plain white slides overlayed with the words day, night, good, evil, black, white etc) manually for the art glitterati to look at in awe and wonder, should be able to get ?10,000 for that.

    glad at 05:51pm on Tuesday, December 23, 2003

  13. well well, im not sure if you realise what art is there for, if we did not ask questions then it would be a pretty stale world, for instance how can one possible say a photo is good or bad? Surley thats part of Tillmans methodology, i feel that you have totally misunderstood what Tillmans is trying to do, well as long as you feel comfortable to critisise other peoples way of working then carry on, although my spelling is probably wrong im not sure if it makes my piont anymore or less important, think about that one!

    henry at 06:21pm on Thursday, January 01, 2004

  14. So what is Tillmans is trying to do? He certainly didn't convey it very effectively during this exhibition, at least not to me anyway. Why shouldn't I be able to criticise Tillman's way of working, especially if I think it detracts from what he is trying to do? We all have to make our own judgements at some point - this article is just my own personal response.

    Mark Goldstein at 01:06pm on Friday, January 02, 2004

  15. i would be grateful if you would let me retract my sentance about critisising Tillmans way of working, Personally i am fond of Tillmans work, i feel his skill does not lie in the abilitie to take technically good photographs, but instead questions why there is set structures surrounding photography, if your intentions are to take perfect photos and you are not skillfull enough to do so, then in Tillmans case he is waisting his time, but i feel his intentions are to use photography as an escuse to observe a thing, and to not have set rules as to what is supposed to be beautiful and what is ok to capture on film. for me his work puts forward a way of looking thats untrained, he uses this method of looking as a way to understand the world around him. i find his work very optomistic, he has quoted that 'he does not want his photographs to appear any more real than anyones elses, and by not framing them, and displaying them in the way he does he justifies that statement.

    Henry at 04:08pm on Friday, January 02, 2004

  16. "and has a lot of friends"

    And there is the rub. He moves in the right circles, knows the right people, is good at socialising. Seems to me that is what gets you exhibitions these days, not your work.

    Paul Watson at 10:03am on Thursday, February 05, 2004

  17. Couldn't agree more with Pauls comments, unfortunately that is the truth and has been for quite a long long time in the UK. Hey and we do have the right to criticise an individuals work becuase if you put it on a wall for people to look at, then you should expect criticism.

    As for henry's comments on what art is there for, I am afraid it's an attitude like that which only serves to alienate the general population from art in general.

    Personally art serves many purposes, Brighten up a wall, bring a smile to my face, question, shock, bore me, create anger, it should be able to trigger every emotion I possess but it all depends on what I am looking at. To say art should be questioned is a very fundamentalist way of looking at art. Anyway if all we did is question everything life would be as boring as we would be.

    glad at 12:17pm on Friday, February 06, 2004

  18. Tillmans sent his work off to magazines, he organised early exhibitions off his own back, yes socialising plays a big part in the stupid art world, but tillmans is talented and was able to exhibit his art by himself. 'Alienating the general public', from questioning how a photograph should be hung or used, or to question what is considered ok to be an image, discovering solutions to the challenge of inventing new images in the already visually over stuffed world! How can that be alienating? For Tillmans to ask questions are for him a way of progressing in his own work, he is self critical in everything he does!

    how did no one on this web site feel a sense of relief when walking into his gallery, for a change I was not presented with an image that tried to confuse me, that tried to illustrate the world, with their effects and special lenses, and computer graphics,

    For me the world is totally made up of illusions and images that are invasive! at least Tillmans images bring a sense of joy to the things we can all relate to, where?s the authority in Tillmans work? There is none, he offers us a way of life that?s not totally dictated, or mediated, for me it was the most optimistic exhibition in ages!

    Yes art should be criticised, of course, if someone puts an image on the wall then yes, you have to question there motive for doing that! But art suffers the responsibility to say something profound about the world, Tillmans work says to me that the world is already profound, without the need for art to point it out!

    henry at 01:12pm on Monday, February 09, 2004

  19. It deffinitely takes an artistic sensibility to recognize an artist. Tillmans' work is a life long project, much like Nan Goldin's, where photographs are intended to look like snapshots, to reflect the viewpoint of, yes, a gay man, who is both a commercial and artistic photographer. His photographs let us step into the artists work, mind and life, which reveals itself as ordinary and extraordinary enough to be recorded on film.

    His sense of composition, texture and color is amazing, and his subject matter is both provocative, and very traditional (still lives, portraits, landscapes). I dare to say that he is BOTH a photographer and an artist, and I have to add that one of the best.

    Juan M. Gonzalez at 05:46pm on Saturday, April 17, 2004

  20. well spoken, just helpless hype!

    Connie at 07:51am on Saturday, August 21, 2004

  21. I enjoyed your review.

    It sounds to me as if Tillmans and the exhibitors are using The Emperor's New Clothes as the basis for their exhibition. Don't you see them?

    Richard Thornton at 09:15pm on Friday, September 17, 2004

  22. Does Wolfgang Tillmans have an artists statement or a resume anywhere online? Ive been searching for a while, and have come up quite short. Please help. I am in dire need of this information!

    Darell Day at 04:47am on Wednesday, September 29, 2004

  23. Not that I know of Darell...

    Mark Goldstein at 02:42pm on Thursday, October 07, 2004

  24. After reading your review, all I can say is that I agreed with it, you are absolutly right about artis becoming photographers, all of them wanted to be photographers without the know how to. Tillmans is just another product of a deteriorating sociaty and that?s very much the way europe see photography.

    Manu Rocca at 03:14pm on Monday, November 01, 2004

  25. im an artist and i take photographs , but i dont intend to be a profesional photographer, why would i?

    i think the problem is with photographers, they dont know how to become artists

    bob at 11:03pm on Tuesday, November 02, 2004

  26. Your comments about Wolfganf Tillmans are completely ridiculous. No fundamental criticism at all.
    Shame on your crap.

    natalia at 10:23pm on Sunday, November 14, 2004

  27. Hi natalia - would you care to explain why you think my comments are "crap"?

    Mark Goldstein at 05:25pm on Tuesday, November 16, 2004

  28. Hi natalia - would you care to explain why you think my comments are "crap"?

    Mark Goldstein at 05:26pm on Tuesday, November 16, 2004

  29. Hi natalia - would you care to explain why you think my comments are "crap"?

    Mark Goldstein at 05:27pm on Tuesday, November 16, 2004

  30. Hi natalia - would you care to explain why you think my comments are "crap"?

    Mark Goldstein at 05:27pm on Tuesday, November 16, 2004

  31. Tillmans work has been completely miss understood by some of the people here. I agree completely with Mr Gonzalez - Tillmans project is a life long dedication and he has chosen certain styles to demonstrate this. No one can say this man is untalented or lacking in ideas, he has achieved so much - We are talking about a photographer of the time.I can understand the whole idea of the snap shot and how this challenges traditional techniques but as young male in my early twenties i feel i can grasp alot from Tillmans work, i like the way it challenges our preconceptions. I do believe that some of the traditionalist are having trouble understanding modern art as it is today. Wolfgang Tillmans is one of the many 'new school' young photographers who are hungry, dedicated and possibly obsessed with documenting what they know best. Its exciting.

    megatron at 01:58am on Thursday, December 23, 2004

  32. Sounds like a lot of people here either are either bitter or do not understand anything about contemporary art.

    anthony at 03:21am on Friday, January 07, 2005

  33. yes.
    I think so.

    megatron at 09:53pm on Saturday, January 08, 2005

  34. most 'artists' are con artists. most contemporary art is crap.

    "but instead questions why there is set structures surrounding photography, if your intentions are to take perfect photos and you are not skillfull enough to do so, then in Tillmans case he is waisting his time, but i feel his intentions are to use photography as an escuse to observe a thing, and to not have set rules as to what is supposed to be beautiful and what is ok to capture on film."

    sometimes a pile of crap is just a pile of crap.

    matt at 02:56am on Saturday, April 16, 2005

  35. I have to agree that most of the contemporary art scene is worthless and a sometimes little more than a con game. It won't be worth anything in a a few decades, if it even takes that long to fade into the forgot dustbin of art history. I have seen a number of video art exhibitions - to call the average video display boring would be kind. A lot of it is merely an unsubtle 'commentary' that reminds me of a junior high 'slam book'. Not to say that some great art is not out there - it is. It just doesn't get noticed. Its really time to move on and discover art all over again. BTW, German photography can be quite bad - flat and dull. I have several German photography books and none are overly impressive.

    Barbara at 09:34pm on Saturday, April 16, 2005

  36. Modern is a misused term here. Contemporary would probably be better. Modernity stretches back over a century...
    People are always threatened by what they don't understand and resist change. If we all stuck to the same old, same old, nothing would move on...
    Tillmans reminds me of the punk 3 chord attitude...anyone can have a go and why shouldn't they. hey ho lets go!

    sarah at 02:55pm on Sunday, May 01, 2005

  37. hello to all !

    maybe we just have to first define art ... the trouble is, we can never have a clear definition of this strange word.

    i have never really liked picasso's paintings, but i can say that some of the things he produced can be called art.

    << i do not wish to start any grave debates here, but even picasso himself stated that he could spit on canvas and people would call the result art. he probably said it in spanish or in french, and it might have sounded better. >>

    then, in 1996, i saw this grammy awards cd that had an abstract painting on the cover ... and i said to myself : now, isn't that marvelous ... i pulled the cover, read the credits, and found out that it was painted by a teen-ager from new york. i have already forgotten the artist's name [ she was good, but i've always been pretty bad with names ], but i remember searching info and reviews, only to find out that people were praising her as a very young picasso !

    let me say again that i hate most of picasso's paintings. however, the teen-ager's painting was great art to me.

    it was an instant reaction for me ... i didn't have to think why it was good, nor how good it was. but then, i wanted to make sense of what i saw, or how i felt towards the painting ...

    although it was abstract, and i rarely understand abstract art, the shapes and proportions were good, and the color coordination was great.

    seeing that cd cover, and thinking what i thought, right then and there, i realized something : art doesn't have to be explained.

    art, like a joke, doesn't have to be explained.

    now, people might argue that if a person does not get a painting in front of him or her, then the fault lies with the person, not with the artist ... with a joke : hey, if you don't understand the joke, then, probably, you are not intelligent enough to get it ... with art : hey, if you don't understand the painting, then probably, you are not sophisticated enough.


    now, wolfgang tillman's work ... i can say that just about anyone who likes toting a 30$ camera, you know, the point-and-shoot kind you used to find at kodak shops, just about anyone who would take pictures of anything, can be a photographer of wolfgang stillman's status if he or she would be brave enough to exhibit his or her photos.

    for the courage, wolfgang tillman has to be an artist. however, i would not wish to buy any of his paintings or publish his works or go to his shows.

    we are all free to decide.


    noel michellesfriend at 05:59pm on Tuesday, June 07, 2005

  38. What a load of bollocks.

    Would people say that Pornography is art? Cos I would. I mean those guys who make the pornos about themselves running around the world paying girls to shag them is one form of art, surely?

    Tillmans is a hack, just like those pornographers, and you all know it.
    If photos of such nasty pornographic material is printed (manipulated) on some nice, fine photo papers using only the finest inks and printing processes and framed in expensive frames and hung in the wall of a mega art gallery like the Tate, would people consider that art? I would love to see a whole profiles of nasty girls in cumshot photos hung on the wall at the Tate.

    So what is Art then, eh?

    Give Me Your Money at 09:29am on Friday, July 29, 2005

  39. Art is in the eye of the beholder. That said doing something in hte name of art doesn't necessarily legitimize it.

    Steamboat Springs Winter Blog Entry

    Steamboat Springs at 05:23pm on Thursday, August 25, 2005

  40. "i think the problem is with photographers, they dont know how to become artists"

    id agree with this to some degree...i think that the thing with a lot of photographers is that they are technical purists. i think many photographers of this nature have a complete inability to appreciate that to some people a badly taken inkjet print (not specifically refering to tillmans work here) can be far more moving and important than the most perfectly taken and printed photograph

    photography is not all about achieving technical perfection, in the same way that painting is not all about acheiving life like paintings...a good photograph needs to have heart and soul, which is something that you people from the "perfect photography" school will never acheive

    "Certainly I don't think his work would stand up if he sent it to photography magazines"

    i hope you know that tillmans started off not as an exhibiting artist, but by sending in his photos to magazines such as I.D...

    Adam at 09:18pm on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

  41. Well said, perfection at the cost of or instead of emotion is a bad trade

    Steamboat at 09:23pm on Tuesday, August 30, 2005

  42. Lets not forget that is just not him, how many photographers turn to photoshop to create good scenes from bad pictures?

    is that photography or just being good with a computer and software ?

    Photography has definately lost something due to photographic abuse with computers.

    r1bkk at 06:28am on Sunday, September 04, 2005

  43. I wouldnt refer to the use of photoshop as "abuse", i personally think of it more as an extra technique or avenue for photographers to expand their practise. although it is true that photoshop makes it really easy for anyone to correct poorly taken photographs, it still requires artistic vision to get your images the way that you want them

    im not suggesting at all that the skill required to press "Alt, ctrl and L" to fix the colours on a digital image is anything on par with the skill required to produce a really good darkroom print, because it just isnt. i just dont understand the hostility that many photographers (particularly those involved in fine art practise) have towards the use of programs such as photoshop...

    Adam at 06:25pm on Sunday, September 04, 2005

  44. I think it all comes down to one thing, distinction. In the past, only professionals, with great knowledge, dedication, and skills, and only after investing tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, could produce professional quality photographs. Now, with the advances in technology, any yokel, with a minimal amount of knowledge, dedication, and skills, and about a thousand dollars investment in equipment, can do "prit near" the same.

    Not that this is a bad thing. Technology, such as Photoshop, opens many new doors for professionals and wannabes, alike. Still, technology cannot replace artistic talent and creativity, and if abused, may even hinder it.

    GARY POGODA at 08:52pm on Sunday, September 04, 2005

  45. " photographers, they dont know how to become artists"
    it is true,
    a photographer cares about mechanics, the perfect
    exposure, balance , light etc...most are NOT artists...
    a real artist with imagination uses a camera as a tool,
    but this site is not for artists, but photo pros, there are
    millions of them , only a handful are creative...

    anjani at 11:05pm on Monday, February 27, 2006

  46. Too bad we all have answers designed to critisize others...there are no bad images, some may be better than others in a way that only our individual senses determine. A pro selling their product, has nothing to do with quality. I am embarassed by how we become so involved in other's work, that we diminish our brotherhood. Nothing nice to say? then dont say anything at all!

    nick in japan at 12:36am on Tuesday, February 28, 2006

  47. " photographers, they don't know how to become artists"

    that is the biggest load of shit i've ever read.

    all you have here are opinions stacked on top of opinions, egos on egos...

    to look without comparison, to look without thought even is one of the hardest things to do and some of tillmans work achieves this.

    Paul P at 06:41am on Monday, June 05, 2006

  48. An interesting read through three years of passionate comment. Maybe Wolfgang should post in an explaination of his work. After all he's the one who has stimulated all this discussion.
    There again does it need an explaination / justification?

    John T. at 02:58pm on Tuesday, September 05, 2006

  49. no offense.. but all of you of griping on here sound like a bunch of bitter failed artists to me.

    Dana at 12:21am on Monday, December 04, 2006

  50. Wow, most of you have no idea how uninformed the blogs in this forum are...

    I think you folks need to take the time train back to the 1860's when Manet first began to challenge the idea that we in the western world had been in a rut for hundreds of years dating back to the classical period. The trad stamp of the Salon or Academy was dominant at the time. Manet attempted to change their tired standards by doing work that offered a new vision - work that wasn't about conforming to a style or methodology that had fermented to the point of vinegar, work that wasn’t about craft. He and those in the art world who followed him were more about freshness and new vision than the repetition of time tested standards and showing off formulaic skill - Manet, Monet, Bocconi, Cezanne, Picasso, Duchamp, Magritte, Pollock, Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol, I'm getting tired...

    Fine art today is more a philosophic dialogue than an acquired skill. It’s a lot more complex than you’re making it out to be. Because the images don’t look complex to an uninformed eye (uninformed in the sense of the focus of fine art and the ideologies that make up that world) does not mean that they are not complex and sophisticated. The criticisms that most of this forum puts forth are comically typical of technicians who have no knowledge of the history of art – especially the modern variety. Everything new is scary to the general public. Check your history. I hate to use this analogy but maybe I can get thru to you by giving you an example from the pop music world. Every new phase that breaks away from the traditional is at first ridiculed by the general public. You Brits may remember a little phenomenon that started out in Liverpool – four lads with floppy hair. How many traditionalists did I hear say, what the hell’s so special about that? Sounds like a bunch of screaming to me – and the beat goes on. Now it’s the chanting rhyme of hip hop that is being transformed into the next new history making phase. It’s called change. Change produces growth, and growth keeps up fresh and interested.

    Read some art history. Modern art is not about technique exclusively. It's about a myriad of things that spring from what came before, but are innovative enough to turn over new ground. I can't give you a sound bite to justify Tillmans' work. It is a response to an entire history of art, and you have to have some knowledge of that history to appreciate it. It’s not hobby or National Geographic documentation. It's not photojournalism. It's not ad design. It's not craft. It's fine art. That's why the Tate wants to show it.

    In case you haven't noticed, growth is about change and not about repetition and showing others the skill you've developed by learning a craft.

    If all you are is a technician, you can't know enough to appreciate the richness of Tillmans' work. You might as well go to a museum containing a Pollock drip painting and say, (like all the hicks that don't have the education to understand the work do); "Put paint on my dog's tail and he could do that). The dog could fool you, but it can’t layer paint and color like Pollock. Think of pure dance. Music without lyric. That’s a little bit, just a little bit like the difference between a Pollock and a dog tail painting.

    By the way, the compositions in many of Tillmans pictures represent a well-informed aesthetic rich in complexity in some cases, minimally appropriate in others. Still others have little to do with aesthetics. The comments in this forum are so anal that I can only imagine that the great number of you have exquisite collections of sale coffee table photo books on every counter in your conservative little houses.

    Yikes! To quote a bed salesman in SoCal “Larry, you’re killing meee….”

    Photo nerds, get and education and then blow your mouth off, otherwise go take pretty, in focus, pictures and share them on your coffee table. Don't waste your time going to museums and galleries that show fine art and expect it to be dumbed down for the general public.

    halo at 06:28am on Friday, December 15, 2006

  51. The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be
    a fool. - (Shakespeare, "As You Like It", Act V, Scene I)

    P.S. I am sure it wasn't my comment (#45) that you were criticizing. :)

    GARY POGODA at 02:23pm on Friday, December 15, 2006

  52. Manet, Monet, Bocconi, Cezanne, Picasso, Duchamp, Magritte, Pollock, Johns, Rauschenberg, Warhol.
    That's more like it. I would put de Kooning and Rothko in there as well along with a whole range of contemporary photographers. Fully intend to plaigarise, sorry 'appropriate and acknowledge' the words of wisdom in my next essay. Thanks John T.

    John Thirkill at 07:44pm on Friday, December 15, 2006

  53. Actually I retract my former statement when I say "no offense." #### all your petty statements and criticisms. You are just bitter artists who wish you received the recognition that he has. Wolfgang Tillman's work and words are genius.

    With love,
    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Dana Goldstein at 12:48am on Saturday, December 16, 2006

  54. Again, I'm sure it wasn't my comments (#'s 45 and 52) that you were
    referring to as petty. :)

    GARY POGODA at 01:25pm on Saturday, December 16, 2006

  55. easy now. there is a lot of venom in this thread. people must be allowed to criticise and allowed to support.

    for myself, i am a fan of tillman and do not agree with a lot of the criticism put against him. however, i certainly wouldn't have my head so far up my arse that i would tell people to 'get an education'

    halo sounds like an uppity little twat, who for all his education (which i doubt very much by the tone of his comments) knows little of humility or empathy. just remember that you may not be the only one, petal.

    in the galleries on this blog there are many examples of creative endeavour (in a myriad of ways) as there are also many examples of very high quality 'classical' (if you will) pictures. i have not yet come across anyone who has undermined any approach that another member has taken. some prefer artistic shots, some prefer wildlife shots, some prefer sunsets, some prefer landscapes, some prefer candid, some prefer street, some prefer b&w, some prefer abstract etc. etc. etc. but everyone is always supportive and questioning and constructive and most importantly open.

    although regarding the topic thread, i am in agreement with halo, i don't think a pile of name dropping and a recital from 'art history for dummies' has anything to do with it. pompous little boy or girl

    tillman forever

    iorek at 03:12pm on Saturday, December 16, 2006

  56. those who doesnt know the moon
    can only look the finger and whine.

    ozmo at 01:30pm on Saturday, January 06, 2007

  57. If Rob Robson believes that his local camera club or nearly any camera club, practices anything but the most mundane, plebian photography he is greatly mistaken. He must realise that there is a whole world of advanced critical work out there and to which he may not have access. If you don't understand an exhibition, at least admit that it may be a little out of your league in terms of intellectual content. It is true that everyone has a right to their opinion but that does not mean that their opinion is informed, educated, original, critical, insightful or worthy of engagement with those who know what they're talking about. The world doen not run on "Pretty".

    barbar at 07:50pm on Monday, January 22, 2007

  58. It's quite ironic "iorek" that you say people should have the right to "to criticise and [be] allowed to support" which you then follow with a tirade of insults and intimidation.

    I don't know how many people have an art education here and if they care, all I can figure is that to discount an artist isn't really something worth doing. An artist will consider themselves an artist regardless, that's a fact. An artist isn't made an artist by their number of exhibitions or high price print sales.

    More importantly, i personally feel (N.B PERSONALLY) that Roland Barthes explanation of the terms Studium and Punctum have a lot to offer this conversation.

    This is (simply) the differentiation between the personal feelings a photo conjures. Whether you see an interest in a photograph on a basic level - Studium - or feel a deeper love for a photograph; almost on a subconscious, inexplicable way.

    Surely, to deny the merit of a photographer and his entire work is to desensitize yourself and utterly deny yourself the enjoyment of finding punctum in even just one of his/her pieces.

    "Ultimately, Photography is subversive, not when it frightens, repels, or even stigmatizes, but when it is pensive, when it thinks. - Roland Barthes"

    My two cents. Cheers.

    joe Coleman at 03:34pm on Saturday, January 05, 2008

  59. I would think this talk of right and wrong is more about 'control' then images or art.

    ethan at 12:41pm on Saturday, February 16, 2008

  60. How any artist wants to 'paint' be it with a cam or paint brush or bits of plastic from CD box is his way of working.

    So many photographers cant work out why THEY have not got the results or fame that many other have. Read as many books as you like, buy the best lens you can and go to as many photo groups as you can but you will never know how to put SOUL into an image this way. Technique does only so much as I think your starting to work out. Look deeper inside yourself.

    evan monaco at 06:59pm on Wednesday, June 04, 2008

  61. You could also try and get your cock out. That works for many people. LOL

    evanmonaco at 12:30am on Friday, September 26, 2008

  62. Hi,
    I disagree with your comments. I think Tillman's creates images which yes, are a reflection of his lifestyle, but more importantly elude to a higher sense of communal experience. His images are very emotional for me personally. But thats just my opinion.


    chris willes at 02:49am on Thursday, October 30, 2008

  63. wolfgang is an artist NOT a photographer.
    he is an artist whom uses photography as a medium to express his ideas, thoughts etc etc
    there is a major difference between a photographer and an artist.

    its always more than what meets the eye - "easy snaps of everyday life"

    one should not, not consider the process of articulated ideas and thoughts he went through

    a at 10:25pm on Saturday, June 27, 2009

  64. It is a puzzling question "what makes great art". There is a wonderful directness to Wolfgang Tillmans' work: it is not filtered by convention and technical "expertise" which at times can be hampering... Yet, I am still trying to discover what shoots him to fame and huge recognition at a relatively young age. There is certainly truth in the following: once a few influential curators and art critics agree that this is great art, then suddenly the whole art world chimes in in unison. (I call it the principle of "critical mass".) I can totally see how some photographers who have worked very hard to create great images may feel that there is really nothing special about his work. For myself, I can say that exactly this effortless (perhaps almost lazy) approach to the image is actually something that I am striving for - after a quarter century of "creative effort". But there is another factor that may explain his success and it is simply confidence. Confidence to approach authorities in the art world, truly believing in himself, always expanding and trying new things, have the boldness to proclaim a 4x6" snapshot a work of art next to a wall size print, in other words: guts and a certain amount of narcissism. The recognition one receives is as much a function of your personality as it is a result of your vision.

    Martin Cohen at 08:46pm on Wednesday, August 19, 2009

  65. After having read the entire debate on here, one wonders:
    Can you be a fan of Anselm Adams work and at the same time appreciate what Tillmans is doing?

    According to the most angry and jealous comments, one can't.

    Even more of a reason to do not give a damn. ;-)

    Steeevyo at 03:27pm on Tuesday, February 23, 2010

  66. I read a comment by Mark Goldstein about the Bechers being amateurs and stopped there because I couldn't stop laughing. Have you any idea how important they are in the development of photography, not only did Bernd teach and infuence the likes of gursky, struth and ruff but the entire new topographers is down to that amateur couple. What ansell adams is to landscape the bechers are to modern art. Keep taking your boring beautifully composed landscapes that people have been doing since steiglitz, there is no progression without breaking the rules. Fundamentally you need to understand them to break them I don't think your at the understanding stage yet. It's not intentional to discredit you here but you have to understand your on a photo based website and your trash talking one of the most revolutionary artists of the last century it's hard to hear that and comprehend from a fellow photographer. It's worrying.

    steve at 11:57pm on Sunday, May 23, 2010

  67. his work is incredible. i am surprised to see that this conversation exists.

    nico stinghe at 11:12pm on Saturday, June 19, 2010

  68. 1. There's nothing wrong with being an Amateur surely. Just because I don't get paid for my photos shouldn't affect their quality? Nor in my view at least are Tillman's better because he gets paid.

    2. Why are we not allowed to converse just because Tillman's work is "incredible / unbelievable" ?

    JohnThirkill at 10:44am on Sunday, June 20, 2010

  69. If you don't understand something, do you need to dislike it then? Maybe art is not for everyone 'cause many people like "easy" pictures. Nothing wrong with them but you should be able to understand that there are just really different starting points for both of them (art and photography in general). Why this always gets people so upset? I can't understand. I think it's just your attitude that stands in the way of understanding. Maybe you should try it for yourself: express your motions and thoughts or describe your life through images.

    :) at 11:33pm on Sunday, December 12, 2010

  70. Tillmans valued candid moments. He saw beauty in imperfection and was able to appreciate what he captured despite the flaws that accompanied it.

    It is difficult to say whether his art is good or bad because of its subjective nature. It must, however, be evocative. For me this is the definition of art. It should speak to you, make you feel and think something. It does not matter whether the reaction is good or bad, so long as there is a reaction. If it gets you thinking and asking questions then it has truly accomplished something.

    There are so many "artists" out there that are so utterly focused on technique and perfection that the meaning in what they are doing becomes lost. I applaud him for saying what he needs to say and embracing the fact that it does not need to satisfy the tastes of the widest audience possible.

    He spoke through the subjects, the way he presented the photos, and the medium. Every element in his installations are intended to be a part of his art. You cannot merely look at the photography when judging the collection. You have to look beyond it, and become engrossed.

    Jessica at 10:44pm on Tuesday, May 31, 2011

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