Paper drop: an analysis of the genuine


Wolfgang Tillmans, A german-born photographer who being the only non-English to win the Turner Prize, supposedly only awarded to British visual artist under the age of 50, Tillmans belongs to the movement of contemporary photographers. His works being predominantly “documentric”  has gradually from the late 1980s through 1990s turned from documentary reportage into abstract photography. He is an artist concerned with the aspects usually not associated with the art form, the surface and the sculptural. His prolonged use of film has greatly influenced his works, as they have up until 2010 within the genre of abstract photography, been series capturing the subject brought into existence by Tillmans himself, without the camera being present.This is reflected in his works from the 2000s, seeing Tillmans fascination for the chemical techniques behind film photography. Tillman is a true contemporary artist, abandoning two decades of film photography for how digital photography better reflected his own sense of perception.

The photography Paper Drop(London), a pice that clearly reflects Tillmans idea of photography, while being two dimensional, is also sculptural and three dimensional. He argues how a staged photo is just as authentic as photos usually regarded as authentic, because in the moment the image has been captured, that present was sensed and experience by the people sharing it. And its is through his photo Paper Drop that this is reflected through numerous techniques.

The focal point of the picture is the subjects razor sharp lines. Tillmans uses the properties of the glossy paper to convey his idea about authenticity, reality. The paper’s edge cuts through a reality and is sculptured in the from of droplet. The shallow depth of focus emphases the edge’s demand for attention and for authenticity. The line’s/edge’s form of a droplet also conveys this, wanting us to make connotations about it so that it can achieve genuineness. In contrast to the paper’s curve, we can see the a almost straight line of light reflected on the ground the subject is placed upon. The fact that we can see this strip of light without here being any other obvious light source, contributes to the subjects credibility.(TRY TO COMMENT ON THE LINE BEING “STRAIGHT” AND THE CURVE AND THE SYMBOLISM IN THIS OBSERVATION)

The tone of the image and the colours found within it contrasts. While the subject matter’s surroundings are predominantly white, the inner side of the paper drop’s is filled with a nuance of blue and by the edge of it in the, a strong red colour, in great contrast to both the blue and the sterile tone of the image. Stereotypically, blue and red are counterparts, set up against each other. This contradiction within the drop can convey it’s struggle for


legitimacy, the most inner part of the drop being its vulnerabilities and the red on the drop’s edge being the fierce force cutting through the shallow depth of field. The white sterile background surrounding the subject matter is out of focus, and is in direct contrast to the properties of the droplets edge. The opposite of an edge would be a flat surface, which the blurred surroundings appear to be, being another way in which Tillmans philosophy on the surface and the sculptural manifests itself into this photograph. He may suggest that what that is without form is not real, what is not trying to represent itself in a form is not real. It is in the form’s(the paper drop’s curve) that red is the most present, in the area of the paper drop that contradicts the flat surface the most.

“The art is most interesting when it’s somehow an existence of trance and control. Of what I know, what I try to control. And what I can’t do. It’s all somehow about representing what I see with my eyes. Because that’s kinda the most real instrument we have. You know the world is surreal and crazy and it’s so interesting, and the act of transforming it in your mind is what is the real world”

– Wolfgang Tillmans (Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, 25/10/2012 – 28/01/2013)


The perspective of the photo is on level with the subject matter itself. It gives us an insight in the subject matter, a cut of a drop. It might be that this is to give us the perspective of something in the process of taking form, in order to achieve authenticity, to become real. Again, looking at the subject matter’s from, and from the title of the photo, we understand that this is a drop/water drop/raindrop. Interestingly enough, raindrops proves to be mathematically impossible, furthermore emphasising the idea of the subject matter struggles for validity and genuineness. It cannot be constructed mathematically, but it is still very real, as we know raindrops do exist. Tillmans idea of staged photos being as real as photos portraying a moment of an object or a person in the captured moment, goes hand in hand with the raindrops fight for authenticity, similar to how mathematics tries to explain and understand another world. The perspective, conjoined with lighting, show us the flatter side of the drop light up like the surroundings and out of focus, this again another way in which Tillmans idea of the surface and the sculptural demonstrates itself in the photo.

My initial reason for choosing Wolfgang Tillman’s work was that I was fascinated by his use of colour and form in his abstract photograph. His works in general and Paper Drop in particular seemed to posses a hidden meaning presented so elegantly in a minimalistic and simple way. And it was because of his image’s simplicity that I found aesthetically pleasing for the man on the street and intellectually challenging for curious minds. The mystery it surrounded triggered my curiosity and a sort of childish admiration. The humble way in which this particular work of his, made me feel appreciation for the glossy paper’s qualities and properties. The way he democratise his photographs was something that struck be immediately upon stumbling upon him.

“I feel like there is always a connection between surface and content, not a division between deep and shallow, it’s often the surface is really meaningful”

– Wolfgang Tillmans (Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, 25/10/2012 – 28/01/2013)

I was fascinated by this quote because he so humbly explains that often it is simply the subject matter itself can be what’s the entire meaning of a work.


“The art is most interesting when it’s somehow an existence of trance and control. Of what I know, what I try to control. And what I cant do. It’s all somehow about representing what I see wit hey eyes. Because that’s kinda the most real instrument we have. You know the world is surreal and crazy and it’s so interesting, and the act of transforming it in your mind is what is the real world”

– Wolfgang Tillmans (Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, 25/10/2012 – 28/01/2013)

I was struck by this because his explanation in many ways resemble the discussion within epistemology, the theory of knowledge and metaphysics, the discussion on what is ultimately there. He discusses philosophy and fundamental questions through his work, daring to make the statement that there is truth to solipsism, the view or theory that the self is all that can be known to exist (Oxford Dictionary). He also touches upon a core concept within architectural theory, where Aristotelian separate form from matter. His reflections does surprisingly resonate with my own.

“It really has do to with my sense of authenticity, reality, that, or today is regarded as authentic is actually a very old fashioned idea of what’s authentic, that to me, a totally staged and contrived image is just as authentic because at that very moment it was real, it was an experience shared by the people in it”

– Wolfgang Tillmans (1996)
I very much agree with his democratic approach to photography and how every thing that can be sensed is very much real to anything else we see in photographs of people.

In this artist research I have been researching the mindset and the intellectual works produced from the artist rather than the works themselves. I have found the commentary and quotations of Tillmans highly relevant to the development of my personal investigation, as his reflections has helped with thinking more intellectually about my own work and how I can be more considerate with my future shots to really convey meaning. It is manly through his careful use of colour and form that I have been inspired and will apply my own philosophy in greater depth to my works and development process.


MinutePhysics: Why Raindrops Are Mathematically Impossible (20. may 2015)

MinuteEarth: Rain’s Dirty Little Secret (8. may 2015)

Wolfgang Tillmans – “Interview” (1996)

Museo de Arte del Banco de la República, 25/10/2012 – 28/01/2013: (publicised 10. des. 2012)

(Last updated: 12 October 2015, at 03:37)

JOHN-PAUL STONARD: Artist biogr (10 December 2000)

Serpentine gallery (2010)

Wolfgang Tillmans, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Brochure, 2010

Colin Davis: Thinking about Architecture: An Introduction to Architectural Theory (Published 2011)



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