Contemporary Still Life: Wolfgang Tillmans, Part 1

Trying to figure out what is still life is, I’ve read a chapter from the book by Charlotte Cotton that was recommended by my tutor. In that chapter Charlotte Cotton mentioned several prominent photographers who have left their mark in the history of contemporary still life. One of them was Wolfgang Tillmans, a photographer who has taken pictures of, among other things, abandoned clothing items presenting them in a kind of sculptural way (picture of grey jeans). I thought it might be useful for me to find out a bit more about him and his work. (I had a hope that looking at pictures of a different style could help me get over my current photographer’s block.)

It happens that one of the pictures for my assignment is going to be a picture of a dress. Trying to create a picture with a certain message, I’ve run into some compositional problems with it. My first idea couldn’t be taken at any of the available locations, a variation of that idea didn’t worked the way I hoped. I think I’ve almost visualised a picture based on my third idea, but because I’m still waiting for a bit better natural light, I’m not sure as to how it’s going to work.

Also, I thought that studying work of a photographer who has won a Turner prize could be beneficial for me. I googled his name and came across an article in Wikipaedia, lots of pictures on different websites and a few interviews.

Wolfgang Tillmans’s style completely contradicts my old views on still life. When I saw his pictures for the first time, I had the impression that most of his pictures were not taken to give the viewer pleasure in looking at them. I did not feel that Wolfgang Tillmans would like to invite us to see the beauty in the object he came across. On the contrary, I feel that the viewer is heading for a shock. I had not expected that my research would change my views on still life and photography.  It looks like, I’m slowly ditching my concept of a still life  picture formed by Flickr Explore.

Having looked at some examples of still life by Tillmans brought to me by Google Images search, I found it strange that there were people who spent more than a hundred pounds for a spiral-bound book with his still life pictures and that some people thought that that book was a fantastic birthday present for a friend. Reading more about Tillmans’s work, I noticed that his critics highly praised his ability to create images that despite of “artless snap” appearance could actually represent “the large life” around carefully placed “found objects”.

I think Tillmans’s style is slowly growing on me. Still, I wonder what mark I could’ve scored if I presented something similar in a competition at the local photographic club?


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