If one thing has meaning, then everything has meaning. Wolfgang Tillmans’ snapshots emphasise the beau-ty in the banal.

Installation photo from BUTTERFLY! ARKEN's collection curated by Esben Weile Kjær, 2023. From the left: Wolfgang Tillmans, Last Still Life, New York, 1995, Indian Corn & Pomegranate, 1994, Rose, 1999, Lily, 1997, ARKEN Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Frida Gregersen

Wolfgang Tillmans captures the transitory moments in his highly present and sensitive photographs. The German photographer has portrayed the biggest musicians and cultural personalities, depicted the club milieus of night life, and shot model campaigns. But he also documents his life as if he were images in a journal. Intimate pictures of his friends, fruit and cigarette butts on a windowsill, flowers, and landscapes. Everything is equally meaningful, and everything has a potential when Tillmans aims his camera lens at it. By letting the subjects speak for themselves Tillmans persuades us to understand his pictures in quite personal ways. Fruit on a windowsill can direct our thoughts to the classic, exuberant assemblages of perishable fruit and flowers of art history, to remind us of how beautiful and short life is. Tillmans’ subjects are humble, but they all have the same sensibility: a raw and romantic approach to an everyday scenario from a kitchen windowsill, without being elevated too more than it is. The beauty of the trivial, a fresh orange on a grey, rainy day.


“If one thing has meaning, then everything has meaning.” – Wolfgang Tillmans

Las Vegas

Wolfgang Tillmans’ photographs are snapshots, which means that he does not manipulate his motifs. He also welcomes the ‘mistakes’ and accidents that can arise in the developing process. This can be seen for example in Untitled (Las Vegas), a giant photograph that shows Las Vegas seen from an aircraft:  a nodal point for sinfulness in American culture. The city is usually depicted in pop culture with the focus on its colourful neon signs and festive, money-hungry visitors. Tillmans has zoomed out from the party to observe the city from a distance.  The dark landscape around the city is broken up by the lights from the many hotels, casinos and nightclubs. During the developing process some glowing lines have arisen in the bottom half of the picture. They spread out over the city like the web of a spider or like arteries pumping blood from the heart out into the body.


About Wolfgang Tillmans

The German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans depicts his surroundings in reportage-like series and contemporary still lifes that explore the photograph as medium. Besides his own artistic praxis, work with fashion photography and pictures of underground club milieus, Tillmans has created several activist projects – most recently in 2016 with his pro-EU /anti-Brexit campaign.

Wolfgang Tillmans was the first non-Brit to be awarded the prestigious British Turner Prize, in 2000. Since then, he has received several prizes, had solo exhibitions all over the world and published a number of monographs that present his work.


B. 1968, lives and works in Berlin and London.
Trained at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design, Bournemouth