Jeff Wall: An Impossible Photograph | Art21 "Extended Play"

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Episode #248: In his Vancouver studio, artist Jeff Wall reluctantly discusses why and how he created his 2014 photograph "Changing Room". Upon close examination viewers will realize that the perspective they're seeing is that of the mirror's—an impossible angle to capture. "The impossibility of seeing it was one of the triggers for it becoming interesting," says Wall, who often creates replicas of places and scenes that he's experienced or imagined before deploying the camera to capture the shot.

By not immediately revealing what the woman is doing or how he made the image, Wall is encouraging viewers to examine the work closely and draw their own conclusions. "What I've told you is something that if you pay attention to that picture and get involved in it, it will come to you," he says. "And when it comes to you it will be exciting."

Attentive to the accidental encounters that can inspire an image, Jeff Wall recreates flashes of inspiration obtained from sources as varied as personal recollections to something noticed on the street, to daydreams, and encounters with paintings or photographs. With an idea in mind, Wall goes to exacting lengths to produce the picture, which may include constructing a scene from scratch, factoring in the position of the sun over several weeks, and improvisational rehearsals with performers. Orchestrating his compositions with the creative liberties that a painter would take, the curious magic and discipline of Wall's work is that it all takes place in a state of photographic realism where every action, object, and condition is simultaneously artificial and entirely natural. Often printed on the grand scale of a history painting—exhibited either as backlit lightboxes akin to advertising displays or as crisp ink jet and silver gelatin prints—Wall's works reveal their poetic potential through portraying empathetic characters, picturing impossible vantage points, and capturing elusive moments.

Learn more about the artist at:

CREDITS | Producer: Ian Forster & Wesley Miller. Interview: Pamela Mason Wagner. Editor: Morgan Riles. Camera: Greg Bartels & John Marton. Sound: Keith Henderson. Music: Komiku. Artwork Courtesy: Jeff Wall, Gagosian & Marian Goodman Gallery.

Art21 "Extended Play" is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; Art21 Contemporary Council, and by individual contributors.