25 February 2007

"It’s all photography." (Jeff Wall)

In The New York Times Magazine this week you'll find a long story on Canadian photographer Jeff Wall who is well known for producing very large, elaborately staged (read imperfectly realistic, fictional) transparencies that he displays on light boxes. This accounts for the title of Arthur Lubow's article - "The Luminist."

I first heard of Wall in Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others where in the very final pages she lauds his 1992 work "Dead Troops Talk (A Vision After an Ambush of a Red Army Patrol Near Moqor, Afghanistan, 1986)" as"exemplary in its thoughtfulness and power." In the work, a dozen or so dead Soviet soldiers scattered on a desolate landscape, apparantly talk among themselves, oblivious to we who still inhabit the realm of the living.

© Jeff Wall

It is unsurprrising that Sontag would find this work especially to her liking since Wall is (here and, as The Times article makes clear, elsewhere) inspired less by photography than by painting. Sontag characterizes this image as "the antithesis of the document." For her, and perhaps for Wall as well, reliance on photographic technology seems to be an inconvenient historical necessity.
There has been a recent boom in books collecting Wall's photographs and writings. You can find some of them here and here and here and here.
PS: There was a review of the exhibition of Wall's work that just opened at the MoMA in NYC in The Times yesterday - here.

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Blogger Space Bar said...

Jim, thought I'd point you to this post by writer, Amitava Kumar: http://amitavakumar.blogsome.com/2006/11/07/jeff-wall/

25 February, 2007 01:17  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Thanks, I will check it out.

25 February, 2007 12:27  
Blogger Stan B. said...

Perhaps it's just me, but staged scenarios are best served by: film,
novels, plays and ... commercial photography.

27 February, 2007 17:01  
Blogger Unknown said...

I think Jeff Wall should start producing real photojournalistic prints using his lightbox method and not tell anybody about it. He should do this for a year or two and once all the "real" photojournalists have finished moaning about how obviously imperfect, artificial and fake his work has become, Wall will reveal that the prints were in fact from unaltered, candid shots.

05 November, 2009 02:01  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...


How do you know he's not done so already? :-}


05 November, 2009 08:54  
Blogger Floor van Herreweghe said...

But not everyone agrees...

Very interesting article:


29 September, 2011 21:11  

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