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Issue 3

Wolfgang Tillmans: Darkroom

In this series, frieze d/e asks artists, curators or writers to reflect upon one word and its impact

BY Wolfgang Tillmans in Influences | 06 NOV 11

Wolfgang Tillmans, dark room, 2002 (Courtesy: Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne & Maureen Paley, London & Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York & the artist)

Photography was a wet process. With the end of chemical baths, photo­graphy has become a dry process. No more waste water, no wash water, no exhausted chemicals that are laden with washed-out silver. There is no longer any need for a darkroom, and the most popular professional software for managing and viewing digital photographs is therefore called ‘Lightroom’.

One darkroom carries on existing and always will: the place that makes the ‘camera’, the little room, between the lens and the light-sensitive sensor chip, once occupied by film. This room will always have to be dark, as the light that falls in through the lens will never be stronger than the surrounding light that doesn’t go through the lens. Only the exclusion of all surrounding light makes the little light that falls through the lens noticeable.

A process of translation occurs on the sensor, a process that stays somewhat psychological and can never be fully explained and controlled by the photographer. Film translated reality in rigid ways, not always softly and poetically as is now nostalgically claimed, film is sometimes quite unforgiving. Digital has its rigid ways but also makes new pictures possible – not by way of predictable photoshopping but by its own ways of translating light into a two-dimensional picture. Please pass the poppers.

Wolfgang Tillmans is an artist based between Berlin, Germany, Fire Island Pines, USA, and London, UK. In 2018, he worked on the set design for English National Opera’s staging of War Requiem (1962) by Benjamin Britten.