Jeff Wall /   Jeffrey Wall

Canada 1946


Jeff Wall
Jeffrey Wall
December 13, 2014

Does a photographer need a camera in order to be considered one? Does he need to actually take the images of the important scenes he’s witnessing? Is it still photography if he returns later and re-creates these moments? Jeff Wall is a Canadian photographer, one of the world’s finest. His process differs from the usual understanding of photography as instant witnessing, as he “stages” his images, recreating the moments he’d witnessed but did not photograph at the time.

Jeff Wall image courtesy of the gallery
Jeff Wall – Listener, 2015

Jeffrey Wall Biography

Born in Vancouver, his father was a doctor and his mother who was a housewife. His parents were never interested in the whole art thing. Nevertheless, they have always encouraged their son to pursue a career in art. In addition, they were subscribed to the Abrams Art Book series, which every month delivered color monographs on masters such as Rembrandt, El Greco and Paul Cézanne to their door. Wall would enjoy these, and by the time he was a teenager, he was already quite familiar with the work of some of the greatest artists in history, including Robert Frank’s seminal 1958 photo book The Americans, as well as Bruegel’s 1562 epic painting The Triumph of Death. I seemed as if he had found a goal in his life, so when he graduated from high school, Wall chose to study Art History at the University of British Columbia, where he earned his MA in 1970. Many years later, he regretted such a decision. “I was too self-centered, too overconfident, too in a hurry. It was a childish, immature thing to do. Going to university and studying art history was nothing, because that just means reading books about artists that you like.”[1]

In the late ‘60s, Wall had a sudden change of heart and decided to drop painting and drawing, something that he’s been doing since he was very young. After he completed his studies in 1970, he was offered a position at a post-graduate program at Courtauld Institute, University of London. As he admitted himself, there wasn’t any honest intention of finishing a thesis, and he just wanted to go to England. At the time, he was already married to Jeannette, a striking Englishwoman with dark auburn hair. They met in Vancouver and had two children when the call from England came, so they all moved across the Atlantic. There, trapped in what seemed to be a post-conceptual hiatus, Wall didn’t create any new works for a long time. How could he, when he didn’t know what he wanted to create? Only upon returning to Canada in the mid-’70s that some of that creative sparks began to appear again. Traditional fields like painting and sculpting were out of the question, proven to be simply too limited to Wall. So he began considering the relationship between painting and photography.

In the late ’60s, Jeff Wall dropped painting and drawing, and decided to become a photographer

Jeff Wall photographs from 2007, 2011, 2014, 2015, and 2016 were shown at close gallery and institute in new york. Home room gallery appeared in the news, just search for contact and apply the existing policy
Jeff Wall – Men Waiting, 2006

From Thomas Gursky to Cindy Sherman: Artistic Influences and Relations

In order to fully understand the art of Jeff Wall, the first thing it must be done is establishing what he isn’t. It will result in a negative definition, but it’s arguably the best starting point. Undeniably, the most famous photographers of the first part of the 20th century were photojournalists. People such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Walker Evans, and Gary Winogrand. All of them roamed the streets with lightweight cameras, searching for the moment when reality would compose itself into an aesthetically beautiful image. According to Cartier-Bresson, it is the famous decisive moment. In this type of photographic work, the accent is on the man’s skills to recognize and capture these moments. If executed properly, the rewards are astonishing. Some of the most famous images were made “simply” by clicking the camera at the right split second. This type of photojournalism is anathema to Wall, who was educated as an art historian and whose photos strive for the carefully composed depth and fascination of painting.[2] In the late ‘70s and the early ‘80s, as Wall was engaged further with his artistic endeavors, and in 1978, he presented his first exhibition, The Destroyed Room, at The Art Gallery of Greater Vancouver.

Around this time, a number of other photographers began to emerge. In his hometown, a loose group of individuals created the so-called Vancouver School, with Ian Wallace and Rodney Graham as their lead characters, among others. Wall followed the work of other emerging artists as well, and, even though the fact they were returning to figurative work was reassuring to him, his head didn’t turn. Quite familiar with the work of Cindy Sherman, he claims that he wasn’t “blown away” by it in such a way that it would directly influence his own work. Also, he knew what the people such as David Salle or Robert Longo were doing, as it provided a context of knowing what was happening on the scene. “Singular as Wall’s achievement may be, his ambition has inspired a wave of younger photographers. You can see the influence of his huge images and studied compositions on the Düsseldorf group led by Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, Thomas Ruff and Candida Höfer. (Gursky even cited that Wall has been a “great model for me”)[3] All of these photographers stepped away from the decisive moment strategy and created their own images, rather than capturing them. “They resented the street aesthetic or the documentary approach because they wanted to show that all photography — even the most seemingly real — is an illusion. They thought it was silly to pretend that documentary photography offers truths.”[4]

His works are created rather than captured

Jeff Wall created pictures of home, where home is depicted in a unique way
Jeff Wall – Band and Crowd, 2011

Limited in Numbers and Popular – the Story Behind the Process

The process employed by Wall is often called staged, but he resents the term. Rather, he thinks of his work as “cinematographic” re-creations of everyday moments he has witnessed but did not photograph at the time. “To not photograph gives a certain freedom to then re-create or reshape what I saw.”[5] That is what art is really about – the freedom to create whatever he want. A photographer that goes through life without a camera, Wall deems what of the moments he had witnessed, or heard, of or read about, until those moments linger in him until eventually forcing him to re-create and capture them. This way, the traditional understanding of photography as instant witnessing is being obliterated and replaced with a new one. The one that provides a level of artistic freedom, the ultimate goal of any artist. Despite taking such artistic liberties, Wall strives to achieve a feeling of authenticity with a determination that requires dedication and patience. His particular process of production has led some to label his as a master of deception, but he refuses the allegations, stating: “I don’t have to prove the actuality of what I am showing. Besides, that’s not the claim I’m making. I’m making a claim that there is a real resemblance to reality.”[6] As mentioned above, the photographer entered the field of photography thinking of its relations to painting. And he took some recognizable feats from it, as well – layered complexity being on top. One other major feat is a singularity. In his early days, he would only produce his images in the edition of one (sometimes two, just to keep the other as a sort of artistic proof. These days, he goes up to three of four). The photographic process in concluded when a negative is made into a positive, a print. He has no need to make more than one image, admitting that the only justifiable reason for him to make a second print is a social one – exhibition, reproduction, or publication.

The photographs represent a major change in the approach

Jeff Wall, in search for news policy in 2014, created some images close to his home
Jeff Wall – Cold Storage, 2007 (Left) / Fortified Door, 2007 (Right)


Up to this day, Wall isn’t sure what made him turn away from painting and choosing photography as a medium of his expression. Whatever the case may be, it is without a doubt that he is one the world’s most popular and influential photographers, whose pieces are high in demand and are sold for high prices at auctions. His talent and ability to capture a scene, to record his own version of the decisive moment, is been widely recognized by both the critics and the ordinary people. Each of his images creates its own universe, with its own time and story. And as with all great masters of storytelling, Wall leaves some parts open for interpretation, including the viewers into his photography.

He is represented by White Cube.

Jeff Wall lives and works in Vancouver.


  1. Lipsky-Karasz E. Jeff Wall’s Unique Photographic Vision, The Wall Street Journal [September 8,2016]
  2. Pendle G. JEFF WALL’S INVISIBLE HAND, 1843magazine [September 8,2016]
  3. Lubow A. The Luminist, The New York Times Magazine [September 8,2016]
  4. Regatao G., Solomon D. In an Era of Selfies, Is Straight Photography Art?, WNYC [September 8,2016]
  5. O’Hagan S. Jeff Wall: ‘I’m haunted by the idea that my photography was all a big mistake’, The Guardian [September 8,2016]
  6. Street C. Keeping It Real: A Conversation with Jeff Wall, Hong Kong Tatler [September 8,2016]

Featured image: Jeff Wall – portrait – photo credits Linda Nylind, image via
All other images courtesy of White Cube

YerExhibition titleGallery/MuseumGroup/Solo
2014Jeff WallStedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
2014Jeff WallNRW Forum, Düsseldorf, GermanySolo
2014Jeff WallKunsthalle Wien, Vienna, AustriaSolo
2014Dan Graham, Jeff Wall, Danh Vo, Giuseppe PenoneMarian Goodman Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2014Love Story – Anne & Wolfgang Titze CollectionBelvedere, Winter Palace and 21er Haus, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2014Beneath the Ground. From Kafka to KippenbergerK21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
2014Damage Control: Art and Destruction since 1950MUDAM, LuxemburgGroup
2014Early WorksJohnen Galerie, Berlin, GermanySolo
2014Jeff WallMuseu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon, PortugalSolo
2013Jeff WallGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, GermanySolo
2013Jeff WallPinakothek der Moderne, Munich, GermanySolo
2013Jeff Wall PhotographsMuseum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney, AustraliaSolo
2013Biographical Forms: Construction and individual mythologyMuseo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, SpainGroup
2013Expansion of the Combat Zone. 1968-2000The Collection Part 3, Neue Nationalgalerie - Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, GermanyGroup
2013Andreas Grusky - Jeff WallGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, GermanyGroup
2013Damage Control: Art and Destruction since 1950Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington DC, USAGroup
2013Salon der AngstKunsthalle Wien, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2013Jeff WallPAC Pavilion of Contemporary Art, Milan, ItalySolo
2012Durchsucht, fixiert, geordnet. Zeitgenössische Fotografie in der Sammlung RheingoldMuseum für Gegenwartskunst, Siegen, GermanyGroup
2012PortraitsGalleria Lorcan O'Neill, Rome, ItalySolo
2011Volume!Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2011Jeff WallWhite Cube, Mason's Yard, London, EnglandSolo
2011The Crooked PathPalais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
2010TransitStaatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Dresden, GermanySolo
2010R for ReplicantCCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, USAGroup
2010„Intensif-Station“, 26 Künstlerräume im K21K21 Ständehaus, Düsseldorf, GermanyGroup
2008Jeff WallGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich, GermanySolo
2008Jeff Wall PhotographsGalleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome, ItalySolo
2008Helga de Alvear und Harald Falckenberg im DialogPhoenix Kulturstiftung, Hamburg-Harburg, GermanyGroup
2008Sonic Youth etc.: Sensational FixLiFE Saint-Nazaire, France | Museion, Bozen, ItalyGroup
2008Ambition d’ArtInstitut d’art Contemporain, Villeurbanne, Lyon, FranceGroup
2008Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery, New York City, USASolo
2007Jeff Wall: Belichtung | ExposureDeutsche Guggenheim Berlin, GermanySolo
2007Jeff WallSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USASolo
2007New PhotographsMarian Goodman Gallery, New York, USASolo
2007Jeff WallMuseum of Modern Art, New York, USASolo
2007Jeff WallJohnen Galerie, Berlin, GermanySolo
2007Jeff WallThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USASolo
200730-40, A selection of forty artists from thirty yearsMarian Goodman Gallery, New York, USAGroup
2007Imagination becomes RealityZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, GermanyGroup
2007Held together with Water" - Kunst aus der Sammlung VerbundMAK Ausstellungshalle Wien, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2007Vertigo, The century of off-media art from Futurism to the webMAMbo Bologna, ItalyGroup
2007Jeff WallWhite Cube, LondonSolo
2006Full House. Gesichter einer SammlungKunsthalle MannheimGroup
2006Click-Doubleclick – das dokumentarische MomentHaus der Kunst, MunichGroup
2006Why Pictures Now? Fotografie und Medienkunst heuteMUMOK Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, ViennaGroup
2006Helga de Alvear – Conceitos para uma colecçãoCCB Centro Cultural de Belém, LisbonGroup
2006Das Achte Feld. Geschlechter, Leben und Begehren in der bildenden Kunst seit 1960Museum Ludwig, CologneGroup
2006Le Mouvement des images, art, cinémaCentre Pompidou, ParisGroup
2006Flashback. Eine Revision der Kunst der 80er JahreMuseum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
2006Some treesGalerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Gemäldesammlungen Dresden, GermanyGroup
2006Draft DeceitKunstnernes Hus, Oslo, NorwaySolo
2006Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery, Paris, FranceSolo
2005Jeff Wall PHOTOGRAPHS 1978-2004Schaulager Basel, MünchensteinSolo
2005Jeff WallTate Modern, LondonSolo
2005MULTIPLE RÄUMEPARK Kunsthalle Baden-BadenGroup
2005Faces in the Crowd. Images of modern life from Manet to todayCastello di Rivoli, TurinGroup
2004Shanghai Biennale 2004 - Techniques of the VisibleShanghai BiennaleGroup
2004Art and Utopia - Limited ActionMuseu d´Art Contemporani, BarcelonaGroup
2004Paisaje y MemoriaLa Casa Encendida, Madrid, SpainGroup
2004Jeff WallTreasure Island, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, GermanySolo
2004Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery, New York, USASolo
2004Jeff WallAstrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, NorwaySolo
2004Schrift - Bilder - Denken - Walter Benjamin und die Kunst der GegenwartHaus am Waldsee, GermanyGroup
200415 Jahre Deichtorhallen: Auktion und AusstellungDeichtorhallen Hamburg, Hamburg, GermanyGroup
2004Somewhere Everywhere NowhereFruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, ScotlandGroup
2004ArchiSkulptur - Modelle, Skulpturen und GemäldeFondation Beyeler, Basel, SzwitzerlandGroup
2004L´Ombre du tempsJeu de Paume, Paris, FranceGroup
2004SITE Santa Fe Biennial 2004Santa Fe, USAGroup
2004Raison et sentiments - Sense & SensibilityCrac Alsace, Altkirch, FranceGroup
2004Wirklich wahr! - Realitätsversprechen von FotografienRuhrlandmuseum Essen, GermanyGroup
2004Sammlung PlumMuseum Kurhaus Kleve, GermanyGroup
2004Berlin-Moskau-Moskau-Berlin 1950-2000Tretjakow Galerie, Moskow, RussiaGroup
2003Jeff WallGalleria Lorcan O’Neill, Rome, ItalySolo
2003Jeff Wall PhotographsMUMOK, Vienna, AustriaSolo
2003Jeff WallColección Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, IVAM Valencia, SpainSolo
2003The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960-1982Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USAGroup
2003Go Johnny Go! Die E-Gitarre - Kunst und MythosKunsthalle Wien, Vienna, AustriaGroup
2003OUTLOOKInternational Art Exhibition, Athens, GreeceGroup
2003Partners - Eine Ausstellung kuratiert von Ydessa HendelesHaus der Kunst, Munich, GermanyGroup
2003Fred Sandback, Karl BlossfeldtPinakothek der Moderne, Munich, GermanyGroup
2003update #6Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, GermanyGroup
2003Die Neue KunsthalleKunsthalle Mannheim, GermanyGroup
2003Looking In - Looking OutKunstmuseum Basel, SwitzerlandGroup
2003Les 20 ans des FRACFRAC - Regionen, Paris, FranceGroup
2003True FictionsStadtgalerie Saarbrücken, GermanyGroup
2003Berlin-Moskau - Moskau-Berlin 1950–2000Martin Gropius Bau, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2003OUTLOOK International Art ExhibitionOUTLOOK International Art Exhibition, AthensGroup
2003Jeff WallNorwich Castle, NorwichSolo
2002Jeff WallManchester Art Gallery, ManchesterSolo
2002Jeff WallGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, MunichSolo
2002Jeff WallDocumenta 11, Kassel, GermanySolo
2002Open City: Aspects of Street Photography 1950—2000The Lowry, Salford Quays, GBGroup
2002StartkapitalK21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Duesseldorf, GermanyGroup
2002WallflowersKunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2002Comer o no Comer (To Eat or Not to Eat)Centro de Arte Salamanca, SpainGroup
2002Jeff WallHasselblad, Stockholm, SwedenSolo
2002Jeff WallGalerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, GermanySolo
2002Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery, Paris, FranceSolo
2002Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery, New York, USASolo
2001Figures and Places, (Sonderausstellung im Szenenwechsel XX)Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, GermanySolo
2001Jeff WallNational Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, CanadaSolo
2001Jeff WallKunstforum Bâloise, Basel, SwitzerlandSolo
2001Jeff WallGaleria Helga de Alvear, Madrid, SpainSolo
2001Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery, New York, USASolo
2001The Dark. Update #4Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, GermanyGroup
200149. BiennaleVenice, ItalyGroup
2001Blick zurück nach vorn – Jeff Wall, Fight on the SidewalkNeue Pinakothek, Munich, GermanySolo
2001Jeff WallGaleria Helga de Alvear Madrid, SpainSolo
2000Icon + Grid + Void: Art of the Americas from The Chase Manhattan CollectionThe Americas Society New YorkGroup
2000La Fine del MondoPadiglionoe d'Arte Contemporanea di Milano, Milan, ItalyGroup
2000Encounters: New Art from OldThe National Gallery, LondonGroup
2000Biennale of SydneySydney, AustraliaGroup
2000La Beauté, Mission for the Year 2000Avignon, FranceGroup
2000HomeArt Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, AustraliaGroup
2000Architecture without ShadowCentro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, Sevilla, SpainGroup
1999Vergiß den Ball und spiel' weiterKunsthalle Nürnberg, GermanyGroup
1999am horizontKaiser Wilhelm Museum, Krefeld, GermanyGroup
1999Carnegie International 1999Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, USAGroup
1999Seeing Time: Selections from the Pamela and Richard Kramlich Collection of Media ArtSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USAGroup
1999Foul PlayThread Waxing Space, New York, USAGroup
1999WartenKunst-Werke, Berlin, GermanyGroup
1999The Time of Our LivesNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, USAGroup
1999Gesammelte Werke 1: Zeitgenössische Kunst seit 1968Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, GermanyGroup
1999Plain AirBarbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, USAGroup
1999Flashes: Collection Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporainCentro Cultural de Belem, PortugalGroup
1999Foul PlayThread Waxing Space, New YorkGroup
1999From Beuys to Cindy Sherman: the Lothar Schirmer CollectionStaatliche Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, GermanyGroup
1999So Faraway, So Close, encore …Brussels, BelgiumGroup
1999The Museum as Muse: Artists ReflectThe Museum of Modern Art, New York, USAGroup
1999Jeff Wall: Bilder von Landschaften, Die Photografische SammlungSK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne, Germany and Foto Instituut, Rotterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
1999Forty Years of the Chase Manhattan CollectionMuseum of Fine Arts & Museum of Contemporary Art, Houston, USAGroup
1999Jeff Wall, Pepe Espaliu: Suspended TimeEACC Castello, SpainGroup
1999Foul PlayThread Waxing Space New YorkGroup
1999Jeff WallGalerie Johnen & Schöttle Cologne, GermanySolo
1998Here and Now II: Jeff WallHenry Moore Institute LeedsSolo
1998Jeff WallMarian Goodman Gallery New YorkSolo
1998The Parkett Artists EditionsMuseum Ludwig, CologneGroup
1997Jeff WallThe Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Washington D.C.Solo
1997Jeff WallThe Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, CASolo
1997The Age of Modernism: Art in the 20th CenturyZeitgeist-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Künste, BerlinGroup
1996Jeff WallMuseum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, CASolo
1995Biennal ExhibitionWhitney Museum of American Art, New YorkGroup
1995Leon Golub, Thomas Huber, Rolf Julius, Jeff WallAlbertinum, DresdenGroup
1995Jeff WallThe Museum of Contemporary Art, ChicagoSolo
1994Jeff WallDe Pont Foundation for Contemporary Art, TilburgSolo
1994The Ghost in the MachineMIT List Visual Art Center, CambridgeGroup
1993Jeff WallThe Children´s Pavilion, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, RotterdamSolo
1993Jeff WallThe Irish Museum of Modern Art, DublinSolo
1993Jeff WallFondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Jouy-en-Josas, ParisSolo
1992Jeff WallLouisiana Museum of Modern Art, HumlebaekSolo
1992The Binary Era. New InteractionsMusée Communal d'Ixelles, BrusselsGroup
1991Jeff WallGalerie Rüdiger Schöttle, MunichSolo
1990Jeff WallVancouver Art Gallery, VancouverSolo
1990Weiter-sehen 1980 - 1990Museum Haus Lange und Museum Haus Esters, KrefeldGroup
1989A Photo Show. A SelectionMarian Goodman Gallery, New YorkGroup
1989Jeff WallGalerie Johnen + Schöttle, CologneSolo
1988A l'hotel de la regionFRAC Champagne Ardenne, ReimsGroup
1988InternazionaliPadiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, MilanGroup
1987documenta 8Museum Fridericianum, KasselGroup
1987Jeff WallGalerie Ghislaine Hussenot, ParisSolo
1986Jeff WallGalerie Johnen + Schöttle, CologneSolo
1986Making History. Recent Art of the Pacific WestVancouver Art Gallery, VancouverGroup
1983The Renaissance SocietyThe University of Chicago, ChicagoGroup
1982documenta 7Museum Fridericianum, KasselGroup
1981CibachromeNational Film Board of Canada, Photo Gallery, OttawaGroup
1979Jeff WallArt Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, CanadaSolo
1978Jeff WallNova Gallery, CanadaSolo
1971Ökologische KunstBad SalzdetfurthGroup
1970Four Artists. Tom Burrows, Duane Lunden, Jeff Wall, Ian WallaceUniversity of British Columbia, Fine Arts Gallery, VancouverGroup
1969Photo ShowS.U.B. Art Gallery, VancouverGroup
1969Focus 69Bau XI, VancouverGroup