BOB NICKAS: Critics often ask, “What does the photographer bring to the picture? What personal history, what politics, biases, or obsessions?” The abstract photos raise another question entirely, although I think it’s true of all your work. We ask: “What do we, the viewers, bring to the picture?”
WOLFGANG TILLMANS: That is a challenge I’ve always taken. I want the pictures to be working in both directions. I accept that they speak about me, and yet at the same time, I want and expect them to function in terms of the viewer and their experience. With these abstract pictures, although the eye recognizes them as photographic rather than painted, the eye also tries to connect them to reality. There’s always this association machine working in the brain, and that is why it is important to me that they are actually photographic and not painted.
NICKAS: I see you as someone who is always thinking in the abstract. Whether it’s a person in front of you or chemicals in a darkroom, you’re looking at color, form, pattern, and visual coincidences. This is important to the way that you put a picture together—whatever the subject of that picture is.
TILLMANS: That’s very true. There is this looking at the world as shapes and patterns and colors that have meaning, and you can’t deny the superficial because the superficial is what meets the eye. The content can never be disconnected from the surface, and this active interest in surface can never be disregarded from the good art that we admire.
via Wolfgang Tillmans - Interview Magazine (2011)