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  1. #1
    Gay Larson's Avatar
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    Discuss a Jeff Wall Photograph

    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/ar...592850,00.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?
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails wall_invisibleman_300_a.jpg  
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  2. #2
    MattKing's Avatar
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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/...wall.5.650.jpg

    Matt

  3. #3
    Sparky's Avatar
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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. #4

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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. #5

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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. #6

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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.
    When I grow up, I want to be a photographer.

    http://www.walterpcalahan.com/Photography/index.html

  7. #7
    SuzanneR's Avatar
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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. #8
    Gay Larson's Avatar
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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.
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  9. #9
    jstraw's Avatar
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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?
    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. In velit arcu, consequat at, interdum sit amet, consequat in, quam.

  10. #10
    Michel Hardy-Vallée's Avatar
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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.
    Using film since before it was hip.


    "One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11

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