Jeff Wall Interview: Pictures Like Poems



Discover what inspires and motivates one of the modern masters of photography, Canadian Jeff Wall, who here discusses a selection of his impressive photographs and their often meticulous compositions.

“The camera creates such a beautiful illusion, an illusion so similar to what we see with our eyes, it seems as though we’re looking through the surface.” To be observant is key to Jeff Wall. Picture making of any kind – from photography to sculpturing – expresses an acceptance of the way things are and appear: “I love the appearance of a tree or a face or a sidewalk… I get enjoyment just from seeing them.”

Wall’s photographs are often made from something as abstract as an occurrence – or the absence of an occurrence – and when there is no explanatory text to guide you, you have to be sensitive to what you’re looking at and figure out the story for yourself. Like in poetry, the subject and its value has to come through to you by means of what it makes you feel: “Take away the verbal description, you get into the pure picture – and then you have to relate to it as a poem.”

One part of Wall’s pictures is traditional photomontages, where one previews in the mind’s eye what a place would potentially look like in a picture. The other part is what he calls ‘near-documentary photographs’, which resemble snapshots but are not. Creating these is a laborious process where a scene sometimes – and always out of necessity – has to be completely reconstructed and staged, often from several pictures. This act of composition and construction is of utmost interest to Wall, who is intrigued by the playful nature of ‘truth’ in photography: “A very accurate replica of a place itself has a documentary quality.”

Jeff Wall (b. 1946) is a Canadian photographer based in Vancouver. In the 1970s he began to produce and exhibit large-scale transparent photographs mounted on light boxes, which became his first artistic hallmark. He holds a MA in art history from University of British Columbia and the Courtauld Institute in London. His work has been exhibited in numerous international exhibitions, including Tate Modern in London, The Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Art, National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Kunsthaus Bregenz and MoMA in New York. Wall is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2002) and the Audian Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2008). Moreover, he was named Officer of the Order of Canada in 2007.

Jeff Wall was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk in March 2015 in connection to the exhibition ‘Jeff Wall: Tableaux Pictures Photographs – Works from 1996-2013’. All the pictures featured in the video can be found in the publication of the same title.

The three pictures discussed in depth in the video are ‘Concreteball’ (2002), ‘Overpass’ (2001) and ‘In Front of a Nightclub’ (2006), all by Jeff Wall.

Camera: Kasper Kiertzner
Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Cover photo: ‘After Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue (2000) by Jeff Wall
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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Fahad Hameed

Fahad Hashmi is one of the known Software Engineer and blogger likes to blog about design resources. He is passionate about collecting the awe-inspiring design tools, to help designers.He blogs only for Designers & Photographers.

17 thoughts on “Jeff Wall Interview: Pictures Like Poems

  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    Jeff Wall's work advances an argument for the need for pictorial art.
    That is something worth appreciation.
    Excellent interview and what a magical speaker.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    13:10 the concrete ball photo,wow,if this photo means something to you could you explain it to me,could you describe the feelings in was intended to evoke,and explain why I'm a bit stupid for thinking it a bland photo in a park,I like some of his stuff,I saw an exhibition and liked the scale of the large prints,funny old thing art,i cant help thinking this is shit 🙂

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    I keep re-evaluating what I think is "good" or "tasteful" etc. All I know for sure is it looks real fancy schmantzy when they show their assistant creeping around doing mysterious things to the "work" that never get explained in the video. Where are my assistants! I should live so long, lol.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    I find it interesting seeing so many people hating on Jeff Wall in the comments.
    I find it hard to grasp that anyone could look at his photographs and not recognize them as beautiful.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    These aren't poetic, they're bullshit. Pure product, no heart. Not even good pictures. Robert frank's a poet. This is poetry like a Nicholas Sparks novel is poetry.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    Fabulous. Thank you so much. He is an extraordinary image maker. Those who cannot feel this, maybe next time around eh?

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    What a fucking interesting speaker he is. I love his work. He could make terrible work but based on his ability to speak quite complex and a bit intriguing way, he could fool people into believing anything, AKA what happens in the art world.

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  • August 30, 2017 at 4:11 pm
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    so…. basically what i'm getting out of all this mumbling on is "Talk about your work in the most mundane, yet convoluted manner…. and your instantly classified as 'an artyeste' 😀 Fuckin GENIUS…… genius

    Reply

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