Never mind the instantaneous, shutter-snapping, Cartier Bresson-esque seizing of “the decisive moment”, for Jeff Wall to capture what he calls “the experience of the moment” can sometimes take more than a year.
Since the 1970s, the Toronto-based photographer has often worked as if he was a cinematographer, using a cast and crew to create the giant lightboxes for which he has become internationally renowned. Yet at the same time he also works in documentary mode, taking images as they appear before him, without artifice; and for the past 10 years he has also been making large black and white photographs.
Many of Wall’s now-iconic images in all formats are currently on show in a major survey at Tate Modern, which has travelled from the Schaulager Collection in Münchenstein, near Basel. This provides an overview of his entire career as well as a major new work of 2004-5 entitled A view from an apartment. Seen collectively it quickly becomes evident that, whether he is blending fact with fiction, employing direct observation, computer manipulation or positioning his performers into highly orchestrated tableaux Wall is not only a pioneer in developing photography as a contemporary art form but also someone who continues to play a role in challenging its scope and parameters.