Discuss a Jeff Wall Photograph

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by Gay Larson, Apr 24, 2007.

  1. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    I recently read an article in Time (Feb 22, 2007) titled "If you build it they will come" which discusses Jeff Wall's "The Invisible Man" and other photographs..see article here http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1592850,00.html
    What struck me was a line that read "Like a good director, he doesn't even always get behind the camera himself. He's directing--somebody else can click the shutter." I kept asking myself why would anyone go to so much trouble staging a photograph and then allow someone else to "click the shutter"?? I couldn't call any photograph mine if someone else clicked the shutter. Or am I being too picky?
     

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  2. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Gay:

    I do think that if a photograph is as staged or constructed as many of Jeff Wall's are, than the person responsible for the staging and construction is the one responsible for the photograph.

    I also think that Wall is not involved here in preparing an artistic creation that just happens to be recorded on film. He has a photographer's sense, and his creations are clearly made for the camera, and the resulting print or transparency. His knowledge of light and film is clearly extensive and, to my mind, often inspired.

    I also doubt that there are many Jeff Wall photographs where he doesn't spend a significant time behind the camera, even if he relies on one of his (large and talented) staff to finally release the shutter.

    By the way, your thumbnail is a bit of a challenge. I don't know whether this will be better:

    http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2007/02/24/arts/24wall.5.650.jpg

    Matt
     
  3. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    Well - he is always behind the camera, and does, in my experience 'click his own shutter'... but as a purely academic point... it seems to me that a monkey can 'click a shutter'.

    But isn't making a photograph just 'editing' anyway? Isn't one choosing one's subject matter from an infinite catalogue of subjects? And then the framing of the camera, the choice of film? in a way - the process of photography isn't ENTIRELY different from choosing a stock image from a massive catalogue.
     
  4. deepcore

    deepcore Member

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    The line in the article is about Gregory Crewdson not Jeff Wall.

    I think Jeff Wall takes all of his images, but Gregory Crewdson often uses a DoP (Richard Sands) and Camera Opertator (Daniel Karp) like on movie sets.
     
  5. CarlRadford

    CarlRadford Member

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    I have thought of this in relation to a series of 'self-portraits'. I have an idea for a series of images and know what I wish the end result to be - as these would be large format images I would probably need someone else to check the final image on the gg having related to them exactly what I am looking for - is the result a self-portrait or am I just a director and the images should be attributed to the 'clicker of shutter'?
     
  6. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    More importantly than who released the shutter is whether we should make the effort to look at his photograph.

    There are Broadway shows that have enormous stage crafting and lighting, but in the end if the content of the image doesn't reach an emotional level for the audience to enjoy, the show does dark.

    There are some images of Mr. Wall's that are eye catching, but I question if they have staying power. I've read the 'intellectual' writings offered by museums about his images, and they strike me as justifications about why they spent so much money. Too many references to 'grand themes and historic connections' than to the core value of what we are seeing in his work.

    I can make bold statements that my photography is a continuation of XYZ photographer or painter, but unless my images have the staying power of the past masters, all my pronouncements are just PR spin.

    Personally, I'm interested in his stage craft, but so far underwhelmed by Mr. Wall's ability to hold me to his images. I simply turn the page or more on to the next image on the museum wall.
     
  7. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    Actually, I think it's a bit like looking at a "Where's Waldo" book, or some such. Lots of details to find and discover, and I think I would enjoy just taking it in person, because it's hard to see all the detail here. Not sure if his work will keep me interested in the long run, as Walter mentioned, but that remains to be seen for me.

    With that said... his tableuax are remarkable to see in the moment, I think.
     
  8. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    Having never read the book that the "Invisible Man" is inspired by, I would not have understood the message the photographer intended. After I read that article it was clearer what he was trying to say. I just thought that after all the work that goes into these images, I would have sure wanted to be to one who stepped behind the camera and took the final step. I find this one fasinating and the flower one in the Kitchen somewhat disturbing.
     
  9. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    I think it's Wall's art even if he never physically touches a thing involved in the actual production of the final product. Is "Stagecoach" not John Ford's? Is "The Running Fence" not Christo's?
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    What is important may not be specifically that Wall pressed the shutter. After all, we don't complain when a director is not behind the camera of his movie. What is really important is that Wall is the one making the work in the medium of photography, and by that I mean taking the important decision that relate to the picture: subject, light, composition, etc. Those are different than performing the actual practical tasks.

    But of course, there is a point at which artists who make mise-en-scène must acknowledge their staff in the making of the work. I think it is rather an abuse of language to call a photo like "Invisible Man" to be only a Jeff Wall picture, just like it would be a stretch to call a Steven Spielberg movie the sheer product of his effort. We all know that important painting masterpieces were produced in the studio way, with assistants, and apprentices doing the menials.

    Come to think of it, when you are making a portrait with a model, you're already doing collaborative work.
     
  11. catem

    catem Member

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    I do find Jeff Wall's work fascinating - and enjoy the links to past works (Hokusai's 'Sudden Gust of Wind') and to literature. Agree they must really need to be seen 'in the flesh' to be appreciated fully (which I haven't seen unfortunately). I do like the story-telling/filmic qualities of his work, anyway.

    btw Suzanne - 'Where's Waldo' must be what we know as (or similar to ) 'Where's Wally' :smile:
     
  12. Scott Peters

    Scott Peters Member

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    Sitting alone, thinking thoughts, some good, some bad. Some evil perhaps, some good intentions. Or, is it wasted thoughts, wasted abilities....poor use of talents? Or is it the evironment that squelches our creative thought process, or is it that no one really listens anymore....

    Staged well, nice lighting, interesting composition.

    I think its one of his better images, stronger images. I think overall as a body of work, overall, I am a bit dissapointed.

    To me, it's more difficult to take a non-staged photograph and tell a similar story, imho. I appreciate those more, personally.
     
  13. jstraw

    jstraw Member

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    There's nothing new with using the vocabulary of documentary photography or fine art photography in commercial work. I think this turnabout confounds some. I know that it challenges my thinking. I think using the vocabulary of the studio/set piece/art-directed photograph for the production of art is a worthy thing to undertake.

    Some people prefer non-fiction to novels. I like Joseph Mitchel and Tracy Kidder but I don't think what they've done is more difficult than what Hemingway or Steinbeck did. Some people prefer documentary films to "cinema." I don't think the Maysles brothers worked harder than the Coen brothers. Milage may vary.
     
  14. Sparky

    Sparky Member

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    Hey - that's a pretty good analogy there. (fiction/non-fiction writing)
     
  15. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Think of a favorite scene from a favorite movie. Somewhere in the hundreds of individual frames on the film stock from that scene will be a single "still" frame that captures the essence of the scene. That is, a frame that when printed as single image distills the essence of what has just happened and is about to happen in the scene.

    With Wall's work the lighting, staging, actors, directing and final presentation all are used as with a motion picture. But Wall doesn't need a few thousand feet of film stock. His movie is contained in a single frame.

    I think the subject of a particular image seems to provide a single "still" frame from which the viewer can work both backwards chronologically from the image or project into the future about what comes next.

    I don't recall if I have seen any of his work in person. From what I can find on the web, I would say that some of his images work much better then others .
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 27, 2007