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Wolfgang Tillmans Talks About Photography, Freedom, and the Art Market in a New Interview

Ahead of his retrospective at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler.

Ahead of his retrospective at Basel’s Fondation Beyeler, fine-art photographer and frequent Frank Ocean collaborator Wolfgang Tillmans sat down with Italy’s Mousse Magazine. In the interview, Tillmans covers a range of topics, speaking about everything from the methods he uses for hanging his pictures to how his work has influenced different ideals of beauty. You can read some of the highlights from Tillmans’ latest interview below, and head over to the Mousse website to see the whole conversation.

On freedom:
Freedom has a precise meaning to me. First, it comes from the awareness that the freedom we enjoy is something that others fought for. If we can live freely, it’s because other people in history did serious, radical, challenging things. And I’m not just talking here about the LGBT community; I’m thinking about even more basic rights that today we take for granted. The big question of our time and for the younger people is to protect those achievements.

On the idea of youth:
When I was twenty-four, my main thing was to speak to being alive, being human, and to do that I spoke through the people who were close and accessible to me, and they happened to be young. When my first book came out in 1995 it got a lot of attention and people started to describe it as “a portrait of a generation,” but that was never my aim, because when you are young you are not really aware of this condition. It’s a matter of perspective. I realized I wasn’t young anymore when I was thirty-one years old. And I certainly don’t consider “being young” a particular value, because it is a moment of great vulnerability, crisis, and confusion.

On why he hangs some of his pictures with small clips, rather than in frames:
It comes from my understanding that photographs are “objects.” The sheet of paper is inseparable from the image it carries, not just a vessel of information. Thus, instead of hiding the body of the photograph I choose to show it as an object. This is why I place some pictures naked on the walls, letting the viewer perceive them for what they are.

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