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Outback with…Wolfgang Tillmans

From Gilbert & George to John Waters, Wolfgang Tillmans has shot some pretty iconic photos over the years. I caught up with him to discuss his work in Butt magazine - the one that started the “whole hairy naked men as art” scene and also Madonna who “pretended to know who [he] was.’

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So what was the original idea behind Butt?

Well the good thing about the gay community is that it’s become so acceptable over the last ten years. But now it’s become a bit too mainstream, a bit too normal. There’s more to it than spending money and getting drunk. Butt is like a club magazine for a group of gays and we just interview people we are fascinated by.

Who is the typical Butt reader?
There is no typical Butt reader. That is the beauty of the magazine. Butt came out of a mood that different people shared in different countries around the world, that there should be a more adventurous voice for the gay community.

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For your exhibitions as a photographer, do you ever finding yourself toning down your work to attract a wider audience?
No, in Chicago I had the horniest show ever. I had a three-metre tall man pissing on a chair. It was wild. I had very few complaints.

Do you ever interview people just because you’re attracted to them?
Yes, sometimes. But I’m not about to say who! I think you can see in my pictures. Everybody I photograph I love in some way, although obviously I don’t want to sleep with the women, but I still love them.  

Who is your favourite celebrity that you have shot?
I don’t even like the word ‘celebrity’ because I think the word, by very definition means people who are famous for not doing very much. That said, I did meet Madonna at The Turner Prize. She pretended to know who I was.

What did she say?
She asked ‘Are you an artist? I think I’ve heard a lot about you.’

Did you say the same back to her?
Haha….no it was only a three-minute encounter.

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