Tillmans subject matter could be said to be everything. In this monograph of his abundant photography, he explores the transit of the planet Venus across the sun as well as his photographs of celebrities in casual intimate settings and poses, as well as his daily life and the many people his existence. In a brief introductory statement, Tillmans tells us that the next transit of Venus will take place June 12, 2012.
The photographs that Tillmans takes of friends transport intimate knowledge to public observable knowledge and it is obvious in many of the photos that the friends and associates are fully aware of this transport from the intimate to the public. The exceptions may be the sleeping nudes, but even these require some acknowledgement by the subject that this private act is to become public exhibition.
I think there is a gay sensibility to most of Tillmans' work, particularly the photographs of friends. Whereas there are some nude male photographs and some photographs in gay nightclubs, it is the more intimate portraits of friends that have the strongest gay sensibility for the message and relationship is implied, suggested, and not broadcasted. Tillmans is gay and he chronicles the many events and encounters and relationships of gay existence.
The still-life is a theme Tillmans explores in a style that might be called discovery rather than composition. Whereas he may manipulate the objects in the still-life, there are accidental elements that reflect a lived existence, an intimate connection to the objects in the photograph, a hidden narrative that makes the work fresh and witty. He also reveals in many of these photographs that he is a colorist of the first order, for color is evident and becomes foreground rather than background in many of the compositions. The color is beautiful and can't be ignored in many of these still-life compositions. There is lightness to his still-life images, as if they blow away immediately after being photographed.
The interiors actually have much in common with the still-life compositions and frequent are wrecked rooms full of broken furniture and soft-drink bottles. There certainly is implied narration in these images and yet the narrative is elusive, there just are not enough hints. The cityscapes are document full of pattern, for it seems to be the honey comb patterns of city existence that he captures in his precise cityscape compositions.
The work among friends is ambivalent. It is not necessarily a chronological pictorial diary of his experience, for the photographs have the quality of art rather than the quality of diary. He selects the photographs not to capture a memory but to convey an image of interest. His photography when seen in large number of images express a broad visual language and concern. There is fascination to be found here.