Tuesday, February 12, 2008


In 1990, I came to Vancouver for the summer to visit my folks (I was living in Toronto at the time) and during this trip I was told by a few people that I had to go see Vancouver photographer Jeff Wall's exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Sure, why not!? I walked out of the gallery in a complete stupor. What the hell was that load of crap?!? Was it me or were those photographs the most boring, unprovocative, cliche pieces of crap I have ever seen? And I mean EVER? I don't mean to disrespect high school students, but I'm certain that high school photography students can take more engaging photographs. Sure Wall's work is "technically" sound but it's the content in a photograph that means and says more than technical proficiency of a camera.

Take the following photographs for example. The top one, Jeff Wall shows us an Asian man being given the finger by a bearded fellow. Remember, Jeff Wall came up with this idea of racism all on his own using nothing but his mind and thought he'd better document it and get it down on film. So he hired actors and found a location and posed his actors and snapped off a number of pictures to capture this "harsh reality."

Then you have the following photograph (that I just stumbled upon while image searching for Jeff Wall's crap). THIS IS NOT A JEFF WALL but by a photographer named Michael Yon (I apologize to Mr. Yon for lumping him in with Jeff "schlock-artist" Wall. Who's the real photographer? Whose photograph says more and moves you more? I think it's quite clear. How much did Yon get paid for this photo? Not a million dollars, I'm sure.


Then back to chumpy Jeff Wall and a look at his "horrors of war":

It's entitled Dead Troops Talk and it was shot on an outdoor set with actors and make-up effects. The actors were photographed either individually or in their group and the Jeff "painstakingly" had to digitally compose them into one photo. Here's a detail:

Wall's work consists entirely of staged set-ups that have either been taken in his studio or on location using sets, actors, props and fx crews (if needed). Essentially, he's set up a little mini movie-set with actors and is taking one useless frame. Everything you see is rehearsed and staged and directed and it's done so terribly. The thing about his "art" is that it's huge (usually around 6'x6'), can take him up to a year to create (I don't understand how it can take him a year to capture 1 lame image) and somehow he's able to fetch about $1 million a piece!!!! In his 25-year career, he's taken about 130 terrible photographs. Let's look at how shitty his work is.

Yes, this one's called The Thinker.

OH NO!!! A Sudden gust of wind has just
about ruined everyone's day!

This piece, entitled Tattoos & Shadows, sold for a $1-million dollars.

While Jeff was crossing the Second Narrow's bridge he saw
some apartments overlooking the industrial area and thought
"I wonder what their view is like? I bet it's kinda sad. I'd better
stage a picture of their apartment, their life and their view."
Note the futon and chores. In Jeff's mind, this is hell.

Jeff personally likes this one a lot.

Bored kids in a kitchen. Sold for over $1-million.
Where will Jeff's imagination take us next?!

I wonder where these people are coming and going
with all their stuff?!? They're on an overpass.

I wonder what these people are talking about
and what they're doing? They're under an overpass.

This one's called Insomnia. Clearly this man is having a terrible
time with his insomnia. He's in a "kitchen" under a table.

Detail of the man's infliction. I really hope he's okay!!!
Oop. Right, he's an actor. He's fine. He's just pretending!
Jeff knows just how impossible it is to find a real
insomniac and get their permission to take a
photograph of them in their enviroment dealing with
their infliction. It's impossible. This is the only way
to show the world the horrors of insomnia.

Oh, Jeff. Your crazy imagination has captured
yet another outlandish predicament! I just can't
help feeling soooo sorry for this worker-man! I wonder
what the other worker in the back is thinking?! Don't
feel bad for the worker though because remember, he's
an actor!! Jeff knows that most tradesmen are too surly
to allow photographs of them so this is the only way for
the public to see what these factories are like on the inside.

So there you go. A smattering of work by the world-famous photograuteur Jeff Wall. God it's just really really terrible work. I can't believe this man is rich beyond compare because of this dog-pile! In truth, Jeff Wall is nothing but a glorified catalogue photographer who has somehow infiltrated the art world.


melanie S said...

Just the name Jeff Wall makes me Angry. Yes, that's right. I capitalized Angry. Completely void of any talent or personality. Banal. Vapid. Blech.

I almost quit Cap College after that field trip, and I wasn't even it for the photography.

Anonymous said...

Jesus christ, you're pretty terrible yourself.

Johnny Darrell said...

EXPLAIN YOURSELF!? How can I get better if I don't know where my terribles lay? You need to back yourself up! I'm not a "professional" photographer but I tell you what! If I blew my work up to 6'x 6' and presented my work in a gallery it would certainly look better than anything Jeff Wall could drum up. And I'm a hack!

Anonymous said...

Are all of you actually serious? Stupid question, it seems so. However, if you took the time to read into his work, what it is based upon, what it engages with, then you would get a lot more out of Wall. Instead of looking at it's face-value, maybe a little investigation would lift this cloud of disdain from your heads and make you realize that Wall's tableau is such a detailed reading of the history of art, it's processes and a reflection upon this, that his work would have more value than "oh yeah their actors"; that's exactly the point of his work. maybe, just maybe, blog spots are therefore fueling subliminal dislike for cultural artefacts, in support of pop culture which is something that demands little thought and play of the imagination. possibly a modern condition that Wall is commenting upon....so, we've gone full circle and wall has duped the lot of you.

Johnny Darrell said...

I've been duped by Wall? "Nuh-uh" is all I can get out of my cro-magnon pop-culture-infested brain, dear anonymous contributor. I know, "to each his/her own" when it comes to opinions especially when it comes to art as we all have our likes and dislikes but there is just NO EXCUSE for even contemplating the idea that Jeff Wall is a brilliant artist. Like a Christian blindly following an abysmal religion, you fail to see that you're the one that's being duped by his "brilliance!" Your comment that pop culture demands little play of the imagination is true. Unfortunately for you and Jeff, there is more imagination in pop culture's baby fingernail than in anything he could ever fathom. His "work" is clear and void of any talent (other than setting up his shutter speed and aperture correctly, but I'm sure an assistant does that).

Anonymous said...

Seems to me you're mostly pissed off about the money. He wouldn't be getting paid that much if people didn't think he was good, so don't get mad at him, get mad at the system because whatever he's doing to get him 1,000,000 dollars is obviously working. And if you don't do your research in the art world, art critics would tear you apart so the guy obviously knows his stuff. Anyone with the proper training can take a good moving picture, but it's the people that know their place in art that succeed.

RJ said...

Maybe you should read more and write less. I agree, sometimes art looks like crap, but sometimes there's more to it when you understand what the artist is trying to say. Jeff Wall isn't that bad. And the prices that people pay for works of art are mostly based on it's importance in the art world. It's not like the artist himself asked millions. But hey, if you want to get angry because you feel it to be unjust that some people earn money with crappy pictures, be my guest.

Anonymous said...

you sound extremely jelous. u spent all that time going on about someone u hate? so sad. all art is different, you will never find a piece that is enjoyed by everyone in this world. that is the whole point. if you dont get that already and spend your time dissing other artists rather promoting yourself than you will get nowhere in the artworld. good ridance

Johnny Darrell said...

I know Grade 8's a tough year but you need to study harder and double check your spelling and grammar. Thank god I'm not your teacher or you'd get a "FAIL!!!" from me.

It's funny because I never really had any idea that I was even trying to get anywhere in the "artworld." Also, besides the spelling in RIDDANCE, I don't think you're using this term correctly as it means that one is happy that a bother has finally gone. I didn't really go anywhere! You came to me and wasted your time. You're the one who lost and if you don't return to Halfsquatch big deal?! Good riddance, I say!

Anonymous said...

to me it seems like your not appreciating the sheer task that jeff wall has put upon himself! he is trying to portray different types of a harsh life. and yh you do need to do a little research on him and how these pictures came about. you obviously have no life slating someone for work they have done and many people around the world appreciate! why do you think he is famous for his work and your not? because your a complete bum! you couldnt get anywhere in life if you just spend all your life critisising work someone has done just because he has more money than you and blatantly knows what he is doing. you people obviously have never experienced how harsh life can be, you must live real sheltered lives you complete arseholes!

oh and by the way my name is matt gray! im not going to hide my identity from you blood sucking parasites!

Johnny Darrell said...

Matt Gray, you are a very brave man for revealing yourself! HUZZAH FOR MATT! Though I need to take 10 points from your boring Hufflepuff house for grammar. I appreciate the amount of work it takes to set up studio lights and get proper exposures, but a catalog photographer can do that. What you've completely missed my point on is that I would appreciate his work more if it wasn't fucking staged. Why hire an actor to pretend he's suffering from insomnia and fake the ordeal when he could very well find a real insomniac and shoot that person in a real environment dealing with his problem. I don't suffer from insomnia and don't really know anyone who does so I don't know what it's like, but I can assure you that if I saw a well photographed picture of a real insomniac suffering, I'd have a better understanding that Jeff's bullshit photo. You wrote "you (sic) people obviously have never experienced how harsh life can be, you must live real sheltered lives you complete arseholes!" You yourself should do a little research on Jeff Wall and you'll note that he himself has really no experience about how harsh life can be. Compare Jeff's life to photographer Michael Yon and you'll see that there's a big difference in who's life experiences are more "real" and whose photographs are more powerful.

Finally, Matt, I'm not a bum, though I do look like one a lot. I've been told that Jeff Wall got to where he is because of his parents' social standings. That it was their money and their contacts with elite that made Jeff the successful "artist" he is.

I mean come on! There is just no fucking way on earth that you could honestly look at the following link's photo and say "Ahhhh! Sublime! Truly the work of an auteur!" If you do, then you are clearly buying into the hype of his name and not the "art" itself.


John said...

Wow! i have to agree, Johnny. Jeff Wall is obviously a douche-bag posing as an artist. If you would like to see well done staged photographs, check out Joel Peter Witkin. Fairly dark and morose, but fantastic to look at. Wall's crap is garbage. One day, I hope to punch him in the face.

John said...

Funny that Jeff's best friend, Matt, got so upset about your critique of his shitty buddy's shitty photos. We should meet them both and get Jeff to take a shitty picture of us all really fighting

Anonymous said...

I kbow this was posted a long time ago but i just wantd to say a couple of things. you dont seem to have done your research into the work itself and have taken it at face value.

Mimic (1982) is not something that Wall thought up by himself, he witnessed it on the street with his own to eyes much of his work is done like that, he then takes it away from the street and constructs it in a way to make the perfect photograph. sometimes photography is about being technically perfect.

Why do films hire actors? because they can act and do it better in front of a camera how do you know that actor hasn't deprived himself of sleep to get in that state?

But everyone is entitled to their own opinions but I think you should research further into the work before you slag it off.

Anonymous said...

oh and a sudden gust of wind is a remake/ re-visioning of A High Wind In Yeijiri by Katsushika Hokusai

Kelsey Wagner said...

Although I lack the vitriolic stance Johnny takes I have to side with his dislike of Wall's photos based on their construction and their lack of immediate meaning and true context.

The power of art is the emotion it elicits on experiencing it. If one must research the background of its intended meaning than the artist has not conveyed it properly and thus, has created a less than stellar piece and/or failed completely. This does not mean that it cannot have depth where one must be aware of the social context within which the piece was conceived or was taking place but the fact that Wall (re)constructs his pieces means that in actuality, it lacks that context entirely. He has fabricated everything and has not captured a fleeting moment in time through which to speak while also capturing the context of that moment so that it's meaning can be understood.

It is the definition of disingenuous. It is hack art which requires a set of instructions.


thank god im not the only one that thinks jeff walls photos are complete rubbish,im a photography student and have had to write a piece on him and his work ,and its been the most depressing experience of my life,i cannot get enthused about such inane crap.how this man has reached the dizzy heights in the art world is amazing ,looks like its a waste of time doing my BA in photography as if i just stuck to the jeff wall school of photography , im going to make a fortune

Venchtable said...

Was this written in 2008?
Well, I come to you from the future. Here in 2015, Jeff Wall is still a charlatan. I came across his work and thought "Hmm, that looks staged", which I suppose, is because it was staged. The guy has talent... as a bullshitter, cash-cock.
Kudos to the author. I laughed several times, nodded along, and that was worth the admission fee.

Venchtable said...

One more thing:
He's a cheat. He's just a fucking lazy cheat that can't be bothered to do the hard work of looking for, and taking, a good photo. I read an interview in the WSJ where they said he painstakingly creates these ouvres; he spent an hour and a half ordering some paid chimps around and came up with a shot no better than a granny would have taken with a disposable.
I suggest he take his large format, and take a shot of his small intestine. Cunt.

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