Wolfgang Tillmans talks with Peter Török, Professor in optics at Imperial College, London, to introduce the technical workings of photography at a scientific level. Drawing on examples from the artist's work, Tillmans puts his unanswered questions about how photography works to Török, who will analyse these and illustrate what is happening at a particle and physical level. In this first discussion they focus on optics and lenses in an effort to understand such phenomena as distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting.
Approximate duration: 90 minutes.
Wolfgang Tillmans (b.1968, Remscheid, Germany)
Twenty years ago, at the outset of his career, Wolfgang Tillmans was immediately recognised as being a new kind of artist-photographer, who depicted modern life in highly personal and provocative ways. His work focused on portraits, landscape and still life, but was particularly concerned with youth culture and the politics of identity. Since then, he has moved between figurative and abstract imagery and constantly challenged photographic conventions. Much of his recent work has involved the physics and mechanics of photography, from making 'cameraless pictures' to creating images by feeding them through a processing machine while it is being cleaned, so that they pick up traces of dirt and silver residue from the chemicals. Mentioning that his first passion was astronomy, Tillmans says: 'I'm a great believer in observation … The experience of relative perception is something that keeps turning me on.'
Peter Török is Professor of Optical Physics at Imperial College London. His research interests include the theory of electromagnetic problems, diffraction, focusing and microscopy with especial emphasis on confocal microscopy and optical data storage. He is also concerned with finding new applications for adaptive optics, which is a well-established method in astronomy, but is also being used in eye imaging where, in combination with high power pulsed lasers, it provides a novel approach to eye surgery.