Excerpts from an interview with Bob Nickas for Interviewmagazine, 2011.
TILLMANS: I found photography to be a very powerful tool because as long as it looks real, it is perceived as real.That was the foundation for the style that I developed. I made extraordinary things look not particularly staged or extraordinary.
NICKAS: There’s a thread through all your work, which is a very basic question: “What else can a photograph be?” We see it with the Lighter series [ongoing series, which began in 2005]. The pictures are folded and creased, whether by accident or intentionally—they are about the physicality of a sheet of photographic paper. This goes back to your early decision to simply tape prints to the wall. The photo might be a carrier of great emotion, but it’s still a piece of paper. You insist on that reality.
TILLMANS: And that it has a sculptural presence. This was a surprise when I first showed the Lighter works. Even a taped photograph, which may only be a twentyfourth of an inch thick, always became an object that extended into space from the wall. And when there was a group of fifty pictures taped to the wall, they had a very spatial presence.
NICKAS: Your installations are so choreographed that walking into the gallery, we feel as if we’ve entered into a giant collage, an activated space. Your photos are pictures of things, but they are also objects.
TILLMANS: They are really color fields—color playing on a purely visual level. That’s why it’s interesting to do these installations where the actual narrative content is taken away and each picture only represents color. The Lighters, in particular, simply refuse to represent. Nor mally every photograph has the duty to represent. They just say, You’re looking at me
I like Tillman’s work- especially his abstract photographs which rather than presenting the viewer with content, ask the question of what the viewer brings to the image as the eye attempts to connect it with reality.
What he says about photography as a medium making things appear real really appeals to my work with the ‘3-D photomontage’. My classmates are effectively fooled by these photographs and some are genuinely shocked to learn that the items and people are in fact made from flat cardboard! I think this proves there is some weight to what Tillmans says about the medium and how the viewer can interact with it.