Wolfgang Tillmans took up photography on a larger scale during a stay in Hamburg, exhibiting the pictures in cafés and bars. Subsequently he sent his pictures from Hamburg's club scene to the British lifestyle magazine i-D for which he later did a number of series, including the groundbreaking Like Brother Like Sister (i-D Magazine's Sexuality Issue in 1992). The series was part portrait, part fashion photography and had a great impact on future art and fashion photography.
1990-92 Tillmans studied photography at Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design in the UK, and since then he has lived and worked in London and New York.
His real artistic breakthrough happened in 1995 when he was awarded two prizes (Böttcherstrasse Prize and ars viva Prize).
Wolfgang Tillmans belongs to the successful British art scene (YBA) that made it big internationally in the 1990s. 1998-99 he was a visiting professor at Hochschule für Bildoende Kunst in Hamburg, in 2001 at Arts Institute at Bournemouth and in 2003 at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main.
In 2000 he was the first foreign artist to receive the prestigious Turner Prize at Tate Gallery in London.
Tillmans has exhibited all over the world, including "Wer Liebe wagt lebt morgen" at Kunstmusem Wolfsburg (1996), "I didn't Inhale" at Chisendale Gallery in London (1997), "From the Corner of the Eye" at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (1998), "Vision of the Body: Fashion or Invisible Corset" at Kyoto Museum of Modern Art (1999), "Présumés innocents" at CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain in Bordeaux (2000), "Protest and Survive" at Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, "Apocalypse, Beauty and Horror in Contemporary Art" at Royal Academy of Arts, London (2000), "Century City" at Tate Modern in London (2001), "View from Above" at Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Louisiana in Humlebæk, Deichtorhallen in Hambrug, Castello di Rivoli in Turin (2002-2003), Wolfgang Tillmans. "If One Thing Matters, Everything Matters" at Tate Britain in London (2003).
Tillmans is represented at CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain Bordeaux, Castello di Rivoli in Turin, Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Kunsthalle Hamburg, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Tate Gallery in London, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Louisiana in Humlebæk, Metropolitan Museum in New York and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.