Jeff Wall at the MCA
– a beautiful image, a John Singer Sergeant dress, lighting by Carravagio. Jeff Wall uses performers, invents spaces, influenced by how film photographers. He argues that for a longtime documentary photography has been the only type seen as valued. Artists like Cindy Sherman uses such inventions and I have never been keen on such post modern role play. For me only one or two images took me there, in many the lighting looked OTT, the scenes not inspiring except. He forgets a rich tradition of allegorical tableaux (Oscar Rejlander) or the Pictorialism of Henry Peach Robinson where photography aspired to painting with light and posing subjects.
Wall said he wanted a new direction. “Taking a photograph isolates a place and an instant from the rest of space and time, so an image is always radically solitary.” I think his use of artificiality isolates – any photograph that is an instant belongs somewhere apart from memory or that perception of the tones and on paper, connected to the web of the past, to objects, documents, archeology, archives, people and place, sites and events. Susan Sontag suggests “aesthetic distance seems built into the very experience of looking at photographs”, but at the same time paradoxically an empathy, a touch – hence the common phrase, ‘the power of an image”. Sontag argues they are “as much an interpretation of the world as paintings and drawings are”, but the the nature of choices made by the photographer, ISO, exposure, lens, camera, are not as vital and where the camera points and when the trigger is pulled, and those two choices re usually co-dependent on the environment in ways painting is not. And yes photography is not necessarily a document of truth and yes photographs are manipulated and misinterpreted,they shares the messiness of life.