Jeff Wall: An Impossible Photograph | Art21 “Extended Play”

[Jeff Wall: An Impossible Photograph] [INTERVIEWER, OFF SCREEN]
So let me just ask a question. The gentleman on the wall there, who’s looking in the plate-glass window, and who has these incredible trousers on– did you make those trousers? Did he make those trousers? Did you impose those trousers on him? Is there any artifice going on there? How do you describe that? [JEFF WALL]
It’s classified information. [LAUGHS] [INTERVIEWER]
And the same of the other picture there, with the woman trying on the dress? [WALL] That’s also classified information. What you see happening, happened. That’s all I have to tell you. How it happened is secondary to the fact that it happened. And let’s imagine that
I found this man on the sidewalk and got him to do what he was already doing– or if I had elaborately reconstructed that– what’s the difference? I mean, there is obviously a difference factually, historically, and so on. And in photography, that difference matters. Artistically in photography, it can’t matter any more than it does
in any other art form. In painting, it doesn’t matter. In sculpture, it doesn’t matter. In theater, it doesn’t matter. In cinema, it doesn’t matter. It only matters in one art form, and that’s photography. That’s why you have to deal with it. [INTERVIEWER] Well, what was the starting point? [WALL] Um… Kind of a memory from thirty,
forty years ago that came back unexpectedly. When I realized I liked the subject, the question was,
“How on earth could you photograph that?” The impossibility of seeing it was
one of the triggers for it becoming interesting. So, on that side of the dressing room, you know there will be a mirror, because on the opposite side is a curtain. But it’s not a mirror image, because if you look at the hangers, they say “Barneys” on them– not backwards. The curtain is closed. No one has got access
to see into the dressing room. You’re not allowed to have
one-way mirrors in dressing rooms. You can’t have surveillance cameras
in dressing rooms. These are all facts that, if you analyze the picture, you will have to come to this conclusion. Therefore, the only thing
that you can be seeing is what the mirror sees. So, that’s a picture that can’t be made. This caused many interesting difficulties. Barneys is a store you can steal from. So of course I had to go to Barneys and take photographs of the dressing rooms and measure them and get every detail and then copy the thing. [CLICKING OF LIGHT SWITCH ECHOES] What I’ve told you is something that I believe if you pay attention to that picture and enjoy it and look at it–
get involved in it– it’ll come to you. And when it comes to you, it’ll be exciting. You know, the most beautiful artistry is hidden. But there’s no secret. It’s not like it’s a secret. It’s a condition.

9 Replies to “Jeff Wall: An Impossible Photograph | Art21 “Extended Play””

  1. interesting video. I'm not sure about that last photo. Seems like it is a simple trick rather than interesting art. Once you know Barney's hanger thing, not much else to it. Might be missing something but seems kind of boring in terms of the art.

  2. He just stole the hangers from Barney's (he actually says we can steal from there) and created the scene somewhere else…

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