Wolfgang Tillmans’ New World

Wolfgang Tillmans’ buoyant, chemically manipulated abstractions and nonchalant portraits of cultural icons, nude acquaintances, and royalty have long displayed his aesthetic experience of the world. Gaining recognition in the ’90s, Tillmans’ longtime fascination with form, representation, and information density culminated in a trip around the world, as he wondered “how the world actually appears when seen at a distance from my usual beaten path.” In Neue Welt (Taschen), the Turner Prize winner surveys the world through his lens again, this time wandering through terrain both foreign and familiar.

The lucid snapshots in Tillmans’ “new world” document his vast expedition without becoming mere representations of their geographic origins. Though many of the images, like the penetrating macro shot of a car headlight, could have been captured in his London hometown, Tillmans notes, “in order to engage in an ‘experiencing of the world,’ one has to physically move oneself to the most diverse places on earth.” Thematic subjects include portraits, sky shots, markets, food, and landscapes, the collection of which demonstrates the impact of technical advancement on the way the world looks.

The book is poetically arranged; a rich, cosmic landscape of the sky sits between the dark layers of a fall outfit and the blurred interior of a busy mall. The high-definition shots are refreshingly unforgiving of natural error, and Tillmans’ presence behind the lens is not easily forgotten in shots from inside a car or at a counter in a Chinese store. Vivid and obvious contrasts emerge—like the many-hued, bicycle-ridden marketplace facing an image of a monotone highway—but rather than highlight opposites, the gentle sense of the world’s simultaneity is the star.

In his fourth book for Taschen, this sonorous collection features both analog and digital prints and includes a riveting conversation between Tillmans and Beatrix Ruf. Tillmans’ penchant for capturing frank moments in time is demonstrated in the sweeping and engrossing monograph of our planet through an artist’s eyes.