Jeff Wall

John Goldsmith reflects on Jeff Wall's "Pine" and Wall's exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery
The links inside the two Flickr photos he links to are worth checking out as well.

Fred Herzog and Citizen History

You have a few days left to visit the Vancouver Art Gallery to see Fred Herzog's photographs from the 1950s of Vancouver and Vancouverites, which shows a short interview of the photographer and another room featuring his photos projected with the theme of The City as Art. (The city as museum!) I strongly recommend it, especially if you can go on a night where lots of people attend: as a 10-year resident of the city, and in my late 20s, I don't have much history here, but overhearing those who have lived hear reflect on the past of a city sometimes described as a city without a past. Almost too bad there aren't microphones recording these conversations: the photographs evoke memories of neighbourhoods lost or grown, some now barely recognizable but still with their distinguishing features. Call it citizen history or crowd-source history, which are new words for "people's history", but these stories and perspectives are important and interesting.

Herzog captured the mundanity of a growing city, much like John Goldsmith in Vancouver and Kemp Attwood in Paris, France, do today. (To name two street scene photographers on my Flickr contact list, hoping not to intimidate them with comparing them with someone with Herzog's stature.)

I'm just a beginning hobbyist photographer, interested in people and urban transportation (esp. trains) but I find Goldsmith's and Attwood's and Herzog's photographs, and the philosophy of documenting places and small events of the city that might blow away in the winds of history, very inspiring.

But enough faux-pretentiousness: the exhibit shows until May 13th, so time is running out. As a bonus, there's even a Jeff Wall photograph on the bottom floor in the Photography as Theatre exhibit on the ground floor!

Jeff Wall in his own words
Photos by the Vancouver artist excerpts from interviews.

A Certain Quotient of Unauthorized Excitement

Arthur Lubow: “The history of photography is stocked with precedents [of photomontages], dating back to its earliest days. You think there is something new about seamless photomontages? In the 1850s, Oscar Gustave Rejlander and Henry Peach Robinson made elaborate composites from multiple negatives. Or staged tableaux? Hippolyte Bayard depicted himself as a drowned man in 1840, and photographers have been staging such shots ever since, with F. Holland Day’s hammy impersonation of Christ at the end of the 19th century anteceding Wall’s more restrained performance in the role. Yet the use of photomontage and the staged tableau seemed fresh to Wall, [Ian] Wallace and their friends because they were using these techniques in the self-reflexive Modernist spirit of their age. Their versions were patent contrivances, calling attention to their artificiality.”

Peter Schjeldahl: “It may be enough to know that, in theory-drunk circles of the period, any sort of aesthetic appeal could be regarded as a stratagem of “late capitalist” ideology or some other wrinkle of malign social power. (The enemy’s identity was never entirely clear.) Artists were obliged to signal knowingness on this score. If critical paranoia poisoned visual and imaginative pleasure, that was unavoidable: a toll of enlightened consciousness. A lot of preachily condescending work resulted, and Wall was not exempt. But a certain quotient of unauthorized excitement, in “wow” effects of what amounts to single-frame cinematography, always set him a bit apart, as did a restlessly experimental drive.”

Both articles via the Flickr Vancouver group discussion on Jeff Wall.