'The Cars', Wolfgang Tillmans— Photobook Review (2021).

  • Dorrell Merritt
An excerpt from my Photobook review of Wolfgang Tillman's 2015 publication, 'The Cars'.

Documenting the ubiquitous machines the world over, within a range of situations, setting and scenarios, the German photographer dug deep not only into their place within societies, but what they say about them and about humans at large within an ever-changing, complex and often elusive voice and conversation.

The full Photobook review can be read here: www.photomonitor.co.uk/book/the-cars/

All images © Wolfgang Tillmans & Walther Koenig Books.
'With the concept of being a car owner existing as one of the most widely enjoyed liberties of the modern world, Tillmans seeks to document this phenomena by way of a universal human perspective, showcasing images from the likes of villages, towns and cities the world over— busy London high-streets, sprawling Emirate intersections, busy Indian car garages are all paired amongst one another smoothly. Romantic, dusky landscapes, sit beside desert-filled arid sunny ones and futuristic, solemn inner-city scenes, awash with bright artificial lights from tunnels and parking lots, heavy with the futuristic connotations of the most cynical Cyberpunk films. Fierce-looking, brand new Lamborghinis sit menacingly alongside docile Fiat’s, hard-working Suzuki’s, nondescript Skoda’s and mysterious Lifan’s. Yet, Tillmans goes beyond just pretty photographs of vehicles and their owners by analyzing these machines with a near scientific meticulousness. For the artist, the ergonomics of these cars across their various country-wide markets; specific details such as their headlight designs, colours, dimensions and popularities all serve not only as tells of manufacturing consciousnesses, but of an extended human ones— who do we seek to be when we are seen in these vehicles? How dominant or subservient do we wish to be perceived on the road when we are, say, reversing out of a parking space, or dropping our spouse off at work? Our personalities— our wants, needs and desires shape cars in every single way, with Tillmans’ chronicling of such a wide and indiscriminate range of them, demonstrating this rather curiously; his staple, polished, editorial approach to image-making, narrowing the visual gulf between otherwise opposing photographic styles...'.