Wolfgang Tillmans photographs Frank Ocean for Fantastic Man


In an interview with Pitchfork, Wolfgang Tillmans walks us through his photoshoot with Frank Ocean for Fantastic Man magazine. This shoot would lead to a newfound friendship and Tillmans' song used as the bookends to Frank's new visual album, Endless.

Pitchfork: How did you first happen to get in touch with Frank Ocean?

Wolfgang Tillmans: We were brought together by the wonderful people at Fantastic Man magazine, who had set up an exclusive cover story for their 10th anniversary album early last year. The shoot turned out to be almost impossible to set up. Frank and I would telephone a few times, and then he would cancel on the evening before the shoot in London, reschedule for the next day, then cancel again. I had given up hope and said I had to go to Berlin next day. He said he would prefer to do it there. I didn’t think he meant it, but two days later he showed up at my Berlin studio, having driven 12 hours through the night from London.

What was your interaction like?

We immediately got on, and I felt he was a unique artist, and that all the backs and forths were somehow OK. He seemed so well-considered and sharp, yet open to what would happen on the day. At the end of the day, we looked at all the pictures together. He asked about going to [iconic Berlin club] Berghain, but it wasn’t open. He said he might come back on the weekend for it, and drove back to London. Two days later, he indeed showed up again and we went clubbing. All seemed well, but a couple weeks later Fantastic Mangot a letter from his lawyers in Los Angeles barring them from using the pictures. It was a huge disappointment and felt very unfair, but we stayed in touch and he later wanted to use images for his book to accompany a future album.

Tell me how you came to show him some songs. What styles of tracks did you pick out for him?

Frank contacted me three weeks ago about the use of my photograph on an upcoming album. Whilst chatting I mentioned my recent musical activities, and he was interested in listening to some. I sent him two spoken-word pieces (one is out on Soundcloud—Fragile's “Naive Me”), two pop songs I’ve written with my band Fragile this year, and the solo dance track “Device Control,” which I had written in April and worked on with Tim Knapp in Berlin and Kyle Combs in New York, to be released next month.

Did he have anything interesting to say about your music, or techno in general? Any guesses why he might have gravitated to “Device Control” specifically?

All communication is very brief unless on the phone. He wrote, “Device Control is brilliant. Love,” and later a one-liner [asking] if he could use 15 seconds for the intro of the album, it would be perfect for it. I’m thrilled that it now ends the album also in my full original 7-minute, 30-second version.

Read more about Wolfgang Tillmans "Device Control" contribution here and check out the photos that would end up recycled for several exhibits below.