Jeff Wall – Tableaux Pictures Photographs 1996 – 2013

Jeff Wall - Tableaux Pictures Photographs, 1996 - 2013

Recently I purchased a second hand copy of Tableaux Pictures Photographs, the book that accompanied the overview exhibition in 2014of Jeff Wall’s work in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Kunsthaus Bregenz and the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. I viewed the exhibition in 2014 in the Stedelijk and was impressed by Wall’s work. Since I have been a great admirer of his work, and I loved this book.

The plates in the book are accompanied by essays from the curators of the museums and an transcript of an interview with Jeff Wall. The pieces provide some historical context and background to Wall’s sources of inspiration.
Jeff Wall is one of the photographers that brought photography from it’s traditional documentary background into contemporary art. Through reconstruction of the real world, using pros and actors, he creates obstacles preventing the viewer to look through the image at the subject.

Wall seeks to express mood related to real life rather than create a visual representation of real life, mixing literary sources with sources of reality. Through his matter-of-fact-ness Walls images can yet be viewed as dreams. For Wall photography creates memories, instead of fixing memories. Through recreation, Wall removes the direct relation with the real world. To maintain an unstaged suggestion Wall, like Robert Bresson in his movies, asks his actors to rehearse their gestures until they become normal.

A still image, compared to a movie, tells much less of a story through events. The narrative element in a still image is created by the viewer instead of the director. A picture has much less options for social discourse, and can do this only through indirect experience.

Wall uses light-boxes and printing techniques from advertising, taking photography from its black and white esthetics to a new experience. He applies digital techniques to create pictures such as The Flooded Grave.