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Jeff Wall on His Work

Jeff Wall, artist. Canadian-born photographer Jeff Wall first became interested in photography in the mid-1960s. He was struck by the perfectionism that characterized the practice at that time—the idea that photographs should, and must, document the world as it is. Photography seemed to be strict reportage, instead of allowing for collaboration between the photographer and subject (as with cinematography). Films were composed of a series of still photographs, but the potential for collaboration within a single photograph had not yet been realized. In this lecture recorded at the National Gallery of Art on April 17, 1999, Wall discusses his work and his relation with what he calls cinematography. He works with performers and prepares the composition to create an image of something that he has actually seen. Through the large-scale photographs for which he is best known, Wall seeks to tell a fragment of a story and allow spectators to finish the story for themselves.