Frames of Reference

The peak of Jeff Walls career as an artist graced the late seventies into the eighties.  His photographic practice began in 1977 at a time when traditional ideas of fine art photography began to clash with contemporary.   This confrontation in aesthetics and approach lead the medium in a fresh direction.  For Wall, the photographic process had been perfected to a point where it’d be superfluous to  improve that which was already refined. Wall quotes Sherrie Levine, who says:”study the masters; do not presume to reinvent photography; photography is bigger and richer than you think it is, in your youthful pride and conceit.”  However, the first time Wall saw Levine’s work he reacted with complete ambivalence.  In hindsight, he writes, “looking back on it now, I think my ambivalence in studying the masters was one of the most important things that happened to me or that I imposed on myself” (Wall 2).

Jeff Wall believed that to study the ‘masters’ one must not be confined strictly to the realm of photography, but to all art forms.  Cinematographers, cineast  as well as painters ultimately proved to be of great influence in Wall’s later work.  He believes that the photographic medium should pull from different mediums. However, “combining it with other things resulted in nothing new, as photography but only the reduction of photographs to elements in a collage aesthetic that was not subject to judgment in photographic terms, and maybe not subject to any aesthetic judgment at all” (Wall 5).  Furthermore, Jeff Wall held a strong belief in the preservation of literalism in the composition of an image. His work has to this day left a great impression on the art world.

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