Photo de Tess Roby

The Spontaneous Nature of Wolfgang Tillmans' Images Influences a Rising Young Photographer

Photographers Tess Roby and Wolfgang Tillmans share their work in our annual photo issue.

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Aug 14 2017, 1:59pm

Photo de Tess Roby

For our annual photo issue we reached out to up-and-coming photographers and asked them which photographer inspired them to pursue the medium. Then we approached their "idols" to see if they would be willing to publish work in the issue as well. What was provided, we think, creates a unique conversation about the line of influence between young artists and those more established in their careers. This post features work by Tess Roby and her chosen idol, Wolfgang Tillmans.

Tess Roby is a Montreal-based photographer and musician who graduated from Concordia University in 2016, and whose work has shown recently in a solo show at Battat Contemporary Gallery. Earlier this year, acclaimed indie label Italians Do It Better released her single "Ballad 5," and a full length is due before the end of 2017. Below, Roby recalls a chance encounter with the works of Wolfgang Tillmans:

Photo by Tess Roby

I peered over a vitrine on one of the final days of Wolfgang Tillmans' PCR show at David Zwirner gallery in New York City. The text read:

Now 1980 is as long ago as World War II was in 1980.
In 2017 as many years will have passed.

I turned 22 that day, and now it is 2017.

Two years ago I went to New York and ran into this exhibit by accident. At the time I was just starting my photography exhibition thesis for my undergrad, and was only just beginning to piece ideas together. I knew his work well before, but stumbling into PCR on my 22nd birthday and seeing his works in person for the first time was incredible. The scale of the images was overwhelming, and brought so much life into the photographs.

"Weed" was the photograph that stayed with me from that exhibition. As the title suggests, the photograph depicts a weed growing in a small patch of sunlight between concrete slabs in an otherwise dimly lit, overgrown side street. Within the walls of the Chelsea gallery, the tiny flora towered over anyone who came face-to-face with it, measuring 164 inches at its height. In my mind, no other photographer could have created such an image.

Photo by Tess Roby
Photo By Tess Roby

I shot the photographs featured long before I knew about the photo issue. Most were shot in Los Angeles; I went twice between February and May of 2017 to work on music. Travelling is a huge part of my photographic practice, and makes me super observant and susceptible to my surroundings.

I don't necessarily see a link between my work featured in VICE and the work of Wolfgang Tillmans––it's more about how we photograph, and the way in which we work where I see a connection. There is a spontaneous and intuitive nature to each situation, each photograph, that I could never recreate if I tried to. I see a common sensation of movement across time and space that is prevalent in the way we both photograph. Images within bodies of work may be stylistically diverse, but are united in light, colour, and the certain feeling that they convey. We are both collectors of images, creating inherently autobiographical photographs that span the course of many years.

I'm also a musician, as is Wolfgang. There is an intrinsic energy between my music and my photographs, one which I am slowly beginning to understand. It's hard to imagine one existing without the other.

Photo by Tess Roby
Photo by Tess Roby
Photo by Wolfgang Tillmans
Photos and layout by Wolfgang Tillmans
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