Are Wall’s photos documentary or “near documentary”? An interesting question. Looking at them they feel real, in spite of the knowledge that some at least are elaborate constructions using digital techniques and/or cinematographic practices to capture moments that are by and large invisible to the human eye. And perhaps there’s the clue – where they recreate events I consider them to be documentary.
Alongside their documentary value they also seem to question the way in which we interpret images,and the way we can assemble visual information to provide a document. They are almost the antithesis of Cartier-Bresson’s critical moment – perhaps closer to a “critical assemblage” – but both illustrate the moments of order arising from the chaos of everyday life, and in that way they seem parallel approaches to documentary.
I was lucky enough to be in Perth,WA a couple of years back for a major Jeff Wall exhibition and my reflections made at the time can be found in a previous blog post here: http://nmoncktonland.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/jeff-wall-photographs-art-gallery-of-wa.html