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View Full Version : Jeff Wall in the WSJ (with his Linhof)



Darin Boville
11-Sep-2015, 18:13
http://www.wsj.com/articles/jeff-walls-unique-photographic-vision-1441375796

--Darin

Jac@stafford.net
11-Sep-2015, 18:22
Hogwash

Bill_1856
11-Sep-2015, 18:25
A beautiful camera.

richardman
11-Sep-2015, 20:20
"Hogwash" "Beautiful Camera"

BUT, how about his photography? If you like his stuff, why? If not, why not?

Andrew O'Neill
11-Sep-2015, 20:54
I've never been a fan, but good on him for being able to do what he does.

Jac@stafford.net
11-Sep-2015, 20:57
"Hogwash" "Beautiful Camera"

BUT, how about his photography? If you like his stuff, why? If not, why not?

He travels with a crew, including a PR person. You must have seen enough of that to be skeptical. Little happens for the lonely photographer doing his thing without an audience.
So I call hogwash. Again.
.

europanorama
11-Sep-2015, 21:05
He is not looking healthy. But he is wealthy. Most prob. is working too much. A photographer-friend with studio just died at age of 73 only. Could not stop working.

richardman
11-Sep-2015, 21:14
As with the Alec Soth thread, I have to admit my ignorance of Jeff Wall stuff until now. I have seen a couple of his pieces before but did not realize it they come from a "famous photographer". His are Conceptual Arts, so I suppose he could have painted the scenes, if he is a painter, but as a photographer, he has to construct the scenes. So he is commercially successful and thus has a team of people working for him, but I don't see anything wrong with that. I mean, if landscape photogs can afford it, I am sure we would like someone else to carry that 30-50 lbs pack.

Will look at his images more and meditate of them.

Jac@stafford.net
12-Sep-2015, 07:49
[...] I mean, if landscape photogs can afford it, I am sure we would like someone else to carry that 30-50 lbs pack.

Good thought. I will give photo-credit to the mule next time.
.

ic-racer
12-Sep-2015, 08:00
Wall is one of my favorites.

BradS
12-Sep-2015, 08:18
Thanks DarinB !

I immediately recognized that scene in the first photo. I used to dirt bike out there twenty years ago. We used those hills as land marks in navigating.

The irony is that that area was all surveyed and parceled out in a land scam in the 1970's.
There are street and lots already marked out. So, the moment he's trying to capture happened in that spot forty years ago.
The desert has been reclaiming the land ever since.
I do enjoy the photograph.


EDIT: looks like he's using a fairly pedestrian Rodenstock 135mm Sironar-N in Sinar clothing. No magic there. :)

Lenny Eiger
12-Sep-2015, 11:33
richardman, you can read Michael Fried's book, where he gushes about his personal friend Wall....
Personally, I am more interested in Photography that has some meaning to it, some content, vs work that intended to be entirely void of meaning, or emotional content. Bores me to tears... other people can like it but its not for me...

Gudmundur Ingolfsson
12-Sep-2015, 18:18
Jeff Wall is a great photographer. He is true to the medium. He of course "produces" his photographs instead of "taking" them. He is successful, showes in museums and sells his work for nice prices. So does Alec Soth. Those guys have all the glory a photographer can wish for, so why the envy ?

jp
12-Sep-2015, 19:44
I think reality is so much richer a subject than we can possibly fathom and it lends itself well to still photography. Thus I don't see a need to make up cinema style simulated scenes, nor appreciate photos thereof, no matter how much time and money made them. The act of expressing a concept or idea with a photo I think is better achieved as simply as possible. I'd pursue another medium if simulation were my mo. Honestly if plenty of other people enjoy it, good for them, it's just not my thing and I don't envy.

Lenny Eiger
18-Sep-2015, 10:17
Jeff Wall is a great photographer. He is true to the medium. He of course "produces" his photographs instead of "taking" them. He is successful, showes in museums and sells his work for nice prices. So does Alec Soth. Those guys have all the glory a photographer can wish for, so why the envy ?

Gudmundur, this is exactly the point.... I don't think Jeff Wall is great at anything, except perhaps marketing. He is not at all "true" to the medium.

These conversations go on and on because we haven't defined what photography is. Some folks come from a commercial background, where it is all about 'getting the shot'. My history includes studying with mentors who valued how "deep" an image is, how close one can get to a portrait of someone that reveals as much of who they are as possible. This remains my bias. Jeff Wall is after absolutely no emotional content whatsoever. He is successful at that; but viewed from my bias, he is a total failure. It all depends on what one is after, how something is judged.

Another point you make is that he is successful financially. We would all like to be successful in this way, but it isn't a photographic criteria, IMO. There are plenty of truly superb photographers who never made a dime. Of course, judged by a commercial photographer, they might think that this statement is nuts.

It all has to do with what we think photography is.

I'm not envious. I would not want to be Jeff Wall, a person who makes work that is about nothing. I still want to be happy at the end of my life that I live a life worth living.

Peter De Smidt
18-Sep-2015, 10:34
So people who go down different paths than you, Lenny, don't have lives that are worth living?

Andrew O'Neill
18-Sep-2015, 11:31
So people who go down different paths than you, Lenny, don't have lives that are worth living?

+1

Like I said earlier, I'm not a big fan of his work, but I would never say that his work has no content, or that it is about nothing. I'm sure it is about something to him and to many, many others.

It is what it is.

BradS
18-Sep-2015, 11:34
....I would not want to be Jeff Wall, a person who makes work that is about nothing...

....but, his work **IS** about something. The article even explains in depth what he's trying to convey in the featured photo....

???

Lenny Eiger
18-Sep-2015, 12:22
So people who go down different paths than you, Lenny, don't have lives that are worth living?

Well, maybe I'm too tired to post. That's not what I am saying. I was explaining to Gudmundur why I wasn't envious.

I don't like Mr. Wall's work, there is a party of me that doesn't consider it photography, it is something else. It is some sort of conceptual thing that is supposed to contain no emotion. If he's happy with that, great.

I was saying that to judge a photo, you have to define the criteria first. There are many types of photography being discussed here, from commercial to nature to landscape and more, and one can't judge photographs without specifying what set of criteria one is using. I was up front about what I called "my bias". It doesn't mean its the only set of criteria one can use.

I think life is about learning, and attempting to live it to its fullest. For me, that includes being able to make deep connections with the world outside my own physical being. I am not that interested in commodity... or even Twitter. That is also a bias. By those criteria, if I was all about photographs that have no meaning, then I would feel unsatisfied.

Everyone gets to look at their own life and consider whether its worth living or not. Its for them to judge, certainly not me, I don't think I have any particular claim to getting anything right. I've been doing a lot of revelation lately. I am finally understanding the way the financial part of the art world works. If I knew this as a young person I would never have started. I can't imagine encouraging another young person to pursue a career in photography, any more than I would a career in dance, music or any of the other fine arts. It's too bad because I think our culture benefits greatly from these endeavors.

I have ceased all efforts to get my work in galleries or museums. It's just for me, and those who happen to visit my house, or my web site, which I will update one of these days. I have no illusions about any financial reward. I suppose I'm not even sure that its worth another second of my time. Our culture has gone somewhere else, and apparently doesn't need or want another voice for a way to look at life with some meaning (or at least one type of that). One of these days I will probably just disappear from here...

Ray Van Nes
18-Sep-2015, 12:52
I saw the light boxes back in the 80's at the Art Gallery of Ontario. A friend with me kind of summed it up - "Well, they're big." It is conceptual art with all the obscure messages that go along with it. Much modern art is this way where you need to read a tome to understand and if you ask for an explanation you get "artspeak" which is the equivalent of speaking in tongues. One is meant to feel stupid as one has missed the point.
If I have to work at it that hard - not interested. Nice camera though.

Andrew O'Neill
18-Sep-2015, 13:34
One of these days I will probably just disappear from here...

Won't we all, Lenny. Won't we all.

bob carnie
18-Sep-2015, 13:36
I have great admiration for Jeff Walls approach, very unique for his time and consistent in his vision.

pdh
18-Sep-2015, 13:51
One is meant to feel stupid as one has missed the point.
If I have to work at it that hard - not interested.

I really think that the former point is simply not true, and the latter ... well, if it's being handed to you on a plate, you're not left with much to chew on are you?. Sometimes you have to work a bit. Or maybe you want all your aesthetic pleasures handed to you on a plate. Fair enough I suppose. chacun a son gout and all that ...

ruilourosa
19-Sep-2015, 04:10
conceptual art is far from obscure!!

Paul Metcalf
19-Sep-2015, 12:16
Maybe more of an issue with the photo market?

richardman
19-Sep-2015, 15:38
Arts is subjective, photography is arts. There are a lot of arts that I do not like, including some photography.

I don't eat burgers, donuts, or a thousands other dishes, but they are still food, enjoyable by others.

ruilourosa
20-Sep-2015, 04:12
Art is not subjective! Maybe some art is, but photography is known for objectivity, itīs itīs language. There are layers of understanding and simbolisms but most photographs are quite objective, Wall pictures are pretty clear... and really well made.

Tobias Key
20-Sep-2015, 08:13
Gudmundur, this is exactly the point.... I don't think Jeff Wall is great at anything, except perhaps marketing. He is not at all "true" to the medium.

These conversations go on and on because we haven't defined what photography is. Some folks come from a commercial background, where it is all about 'getting the shot'. My history includes studying with mentors who valued how "deep" an image is, how close one can get to a portrait of someone that reveals as much of who they are as possible. This remains my bias. Jeff Wall is after absolutely no emotional content whatsoever. He is successful at that; but viewed from my bias, he is a total failure. It all depends on what one is after, how something is judged.

Another point you make is that he is successful financially. We would all like to be successful in this way, but it isn't a photographic criteria, IMO. There are plenty of truly superb photographers who never made a dime. Of course, judged by a commercial photographer, they might think that this statement is nuts.

It all has to do with what we think photography is.

I'm not envious. I would not want to be Jeff Wall, a person who makes work that is about nothing. I still want to be happy at the end of my life that I live a life worth living.

I must admit I do struggle to appreciate Wall's work as well as Gregory Crewdson's. I can get past the fact that for me a totally constructed photograph is essentially meaningless. I guess I'm hung up on the idea that a good photograph is evidential in nature, a document of something that existed or happened. Conceptual photos alluding to some constructed or implied meaning just don't resonate with me because I know what I'm looking at is totally fake. I like to think of photography as essentially an outward looking medium, and most of these type of images really look inwards and are an extension of the artist's own ego.

Lenny Eiger
20-Sep-2015, 09:11
I must admit I do struggle to appreciate Wall's work as well as Gregory Crewdson's. I can get past the fact that for me a totally constructed photograph is essentially meaningless. I guess I'm hung up on the idea that a good photograph is evidential in nature, a document of something that existed or happened. Conceptual photos alluding to some constructed or implied meaning just don't resonate with me because I know what I'm looking at is totally fake. I like to think of photography as essentially an outward looking medium, and most of these type of images really look inwards and are an extension of the artist's own ego.

I'm not against constructed images. It's nothing new, they have been doing that since the beginning... I am not against conceptual photography in general. I like interesting, new things. I am interested in learning and growing. I will say that my reactions to Wall's work are colored by the lengthy (and boring) descriptions in Michael Fried's book.

Michael Fried also tries to suggest this whole manifesto that photographers should only photograph people that aren't looking at them, that it has to be some sort of pure image where the people or other objects in the image can't interact with the viewer. Without emotional interaction, every viewer should see the same thing. (I doubt it.)

I find the work done in this way to be sterile, and without interest. I have used the action of photographing to become hyper-aware for a moment, to make sure that everything in the frame belongs there, to notice as much as I possibly could for that moment. I don't want to photograph things, or people, that I am not engaged, or connected, with. Why not just point a camera anywhere? Let's have no design, no caring, no emotional content whatsoever.

I'll grant that it is an interesting exercise. However, an exercise does not make a genre, and I think this one is bound to fail. That's just my opinion.

ruilourosa
20-Sep-2015, 12:20
gee, XIX century discussions...

i ran!

Lenny Eiger
20-Sep-2015, 12:48
gee, XIX century discussions...

i ran!


You're right. I shouldn't be discussing this... ignore my previous post.... gotta get outa this thread... should have never commented int he first place.

Peter Lewin
20-Sep-2015, 16:31
Conceptual art, the category in which we are placing Wall's and Soth's images, is about ideas. There are some ideas which will appeal to us individually, and others which we consider boring. I suspect a lot of the criticism of Wall's images is based on the fact that many find the underlying ideas to be boring, hence not worth the work necessary to produce the image. When I read this thread, the photographer who came to mind is "Alex From Holland" who posts in the "LF Image Sharing - Collodian and Wetplate" category, and was recently the subject of a portfolio in View Camera Magazine. I, for one, find Alex's constructed images simply much more interesting than Wall's, but what I am trying to express is that what I am reacting to is the underlying concept; Alex, Wall, and Soth are all expert technicians, so our judgment has to be based on our response to the idea behind the image.

ruilourosa
21-Sep-2015, 00:08
Do you think wall is a conceptual artist? well.. not quite! look at Baldessari works and compare, no closed fields but...

art and artisany are different things...

view camera magazine and moma are also different

Drew Wiley
21-Sep-2015, 10:26
Ho hum. Looks like a retread of 70's stuff to me.

bob carnie
21-Sep-2015, 10:34
I do not remember any 70's stuff looking anything like Jeff Walls work.



Ho hum. Looks like a retread of 70's stuff to me.

Drew Wiley
21-Sep-2015, 10:41
Tons of it in SoCal. That's where it originated. Maybe not circulated as much in the East. Interesting awhile, then I got sick of it. But as long as he enjoys what he's
doing, that's all that counts.

bob carnie
21-Sep-2015, 11:12
I thought it was mostly rocks , trees and water out there...

Tons of it in SoCal. That's where it originated. Maybe not circulated as much in the East. Interesting awhile, then I got sick of it. But as long as he enjoys what he's
doing, that's all that counts.

Drew Wiley
21-Sep-2015, 11:18
Well, I was above the trees much of last week, and had more than my fair share of water (coming from the sky), and had quite a variety of splendid rocks everywhere. Saw a chipmunk at the edge of a marble (karst) sinkhole and talked him out of jumping. Saved a life. Then back into the forest. So I guess somebody like Jeff Wall would comment, Ho Hum, another rocks n' trees type. I'll admit it. That's what I am.

bob carnie
21-Sep-2015, 11:19
Nothing wrong with that Drew, I am sure Jeff would be gracious about rocks and trees .

Well, I was above the trees much of last week, and had more than my fair share of water (coming from the sky), and had quite a variety of splendid rocks everywhere. Saw a chipmunk at the edge of a marble (karst) sinkhole and talked him out of jumping. Saved a life. Then back into the forest. So I guess somebody like Jeff Wall would comment, Ho Hum, another rocks n' trees type. I'll admit it. That's what I am.

ndg
21-Sep-2015, 11:39
I like Jeff Wall's work but then I really admire conceptual work and one day when I grow up, that is what I want to do. It is really not for everybody but then that's what makes the world go round, right? Another conceptual photographer whose work I like is Erwin Olaf, another Dutchman.

Drew Wiley
21-Sep-2015, 11:39
I did see some of his kind of theme on the way home and would have really really liked to have spent some time on rural architectural whatevers in warm summer light. But my truck AC doesn't work, it was well over 100F all day on the way home (once out of the mtns), and as usual, about all I managed was a couple of quickie 6x7 snapshots in that wretched heat. Serves me right for complaining how cold it was previous nights up above timberline. Next year's project: repair my AC. No money this year. I finally got home at 5:00 PM, then my wife arrives at 8:00 PM with a brand new Toyota Prius. Revenge for me buying a new lens I guess. Actually, I was delighted because I was constantly afraid of her old car breaking down somewhere. She tried calling me, but no cell phone coverage up in those hills. But I generally consider that an advantage. Besides, I saved the life of a chipmunk.

bob carnie
21-Sep-2015, 12:34
I will say it again Drew.. you are the most interesting man in the world... Stay thirsty my Friend.



I did see some of his kind of theme on the way home and would have really really liked to have spent some time on rural architectural whatevers in warm summer light. But my truck AC doesn't work, it was well over 100F all day on the way home (once out of the mtns), and as usual, about all I managed was a couple of quickie 6x7 snapshots in that wretched heat. Serves me right for complaining how cold it was previous nights up above timberline. Next year's project: repair my AC. No money this year. I finally got home at 5:00 PM, then my wife arrives at 8:00 PM with a brand new Toyota Prius. Revenge for me buying a new lens I guess. Actually, I was delighted because I was constantly afraid of her old car breaking down somewhere. She tried calling me, but no cell phone coverage up in those hills. But I generally consider that an advantage. Besides, I saved the life of a chipmunk.

johnmsanderson
21-Sep-2015, 23:01
I'm curious -- What makes a photographer's body of work conceptual? Will an elaborate conceit do?

ruilourosa
22-Sep-2015, 00:45
just google it!

Corran
23-Sep-2015, 14:27
All of these threads about this or that photographer are so tiresome. It's the same few boring posters with the same lame diatribes about the photographer in question and why his work is banal / devoid of soul / has no meaning / etc. (subtext: but their work is fantastic, they just haven't gotten recognition!).

It's fine to not like certain artists/works, but some of you need to take a step back and not act holier than thou in every thread. Except the Ansel Adams threads, of course.

Drew Wiley
24-Sep-2015, 08:49
Are you making a confession, Corran?

Fr. Mark
29-Sep-2015, 21:47
late to party here, but it seems to me that once upon a time, it took skill (ie ability to draw) to produce art, but most anyone could get some sense of what it meant. Somehow, instead we've gotten to a point where it takes no skill to make art but you need to have a PhD in "art" to "explain" it. I enjoyed the earlier comment on speaking in tongues! I guess I'm 19th C but I don't see how this is progress.

My main excuse for my interest in photography over making paintings is that if I finally get an image I love, I might be able to share it w/o giving up my only copy. Plus I like fine machines and chemistry and my drawing is not yet good enough to capture a likeness of a person in the time I can set up the Sinar thru to the final print.

Wall doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Not stuff I'd want to own, or do myself, but it does not hurt to have seen it.

It does take the idea of still life to a different level. I spend time arranging lights and flowers to show them in what I consider their best presentation.

Back around 1990 or 1991 Roald Hoffman gave the Eli Lilly lecture at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. Everyone expected a technical talk, he does have a Nobel prize in chemistry iirc, but instead he talked about "Natural v unnatural"
Using a fountain with sculptures of children and dolphins and moving water. It was real bronze but not real children and real water but pumped around so it made arcs echoing the movement implied by the "jumping" dolphins, is that natural? The water once pumped out followed a nice natural parabolic type arc. The figures all were correctly proportioned. What is real or natural and not natural is not so simple.

I wish I had good notes from the talk. I'd like to say he went on to link this with synthetic or semi-synthetic pharmaceuticals but I don't remember.

Which is a longish way of saying or asking, is Wall's art so unreal? He is bouncing light off objects in the real world and collecting a tiny portion of that light on film. He's not painting entirely from imagination. Even then he'd still need a way to display what's in his imagination (paint, sculpture, computer monitor, etc). So he creates a scene for a still life photo in a very elaborate way. Is this wrong?

I tend to come from the school of thought that the world has plenty of ugly already, why make more of it like the destroyed room? I'm also interested in finding beauty where others might over look it. So to an extent the ugly or not beautiful content of the work does not speak to my aspirations or hopes for photography.

ruilourosa
30-Sep-2015, 02:44
you are in XIX century!