Jeff Wall

Wall was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. While studying art history at the University of British Columbia in the 1960s, he became interested in Vancouver’s experimental art scene and taught himself photography, seeing it as the best tool for expressing his conceptual ideas…

Wall has said, ‘The only way to continue in the spirit of the avant-garde is to experiment with your relation to tradition’ (Artnews, Nov. 1995, p.222). In 1977, during a visit to the Prado in Madrid, he was moved by the paintings of Velázquez and Goya. He felt that, due to what he saw as the dominance of photography and film, it was no longer possible for modern artists to paint like the great masters. Seeking a new method to represent everyday life pictorially, Wall found a suitable medium in advertising hoarding lightboxes, and made his first backlit transparencies in 1978. Early works, such as The Thinker (1986) based on Rodin’s sculpture of that name, referred directly to great works in the history of art. Recently, he has more actively explored the literary and filmic aspects of his art. The majority of his pieces are set in Vancouver and contain references to art, the media, and socio-economic problems. - http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/jeff-wall-2359

Jeff Wall has exhibited his photographs internationally for the twenty-five years and is one of the most intriguing and influential artists working today. He has also played a key role in establishing photography as a contemporary art form.

Wall is best known for his large-scale colour transparencies, mounted in wall-hung light boxes which combine the seductive glow of a cinema screen with the physical presence of sculpture. Wall’s works are typified by two approaches, which he characterises as either cinematographic or documentary. For his innovative mise-en-scènes, Wall has pioneered state-of-the-art film and digital techniques to compose meticulously staged scenes. At first glance they often appear to be snapshots but, on closer inspection, the multi-layered content sometimes seems too bizarre or complex to be real. Wall draws upon a myriad of references from art history, particularly nineteenth century painting. His A Picture for Women 1979 directly references Edouard Manet’s Un Bar aux Folies-Bergèreswhilst the iconic A Sudden Gust of Wind (After Hokusai) 1993 pays homage to Hokusai’s exquisite Japanese print. Wall also draws upon cinematic techniques by using actors as protagonists, artificial lighting, staged compositions, and a narrative technique which leads you to contemplate the unseen events leading to the moment depicted. These stunning depictions of urban life tell stories about people, their habitat and the everyday yet enigmatic way they interact. - http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall

link:  http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2007/jeffwall/

The majority of the work for which Photographer Mark Cohen is known is shot in the neighbourhoods of Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, a city in the northeastern part of Pennsylvania, United States. Characteristically he shoots his subjects close in, often using a wide-angle lens and flash, frequently cropping the subjects’ heads from the frame, concentrating on small details and moments.

Cohen has described his method as ‘intrusive’. “They’re not easy pictures. But I guess that’s why they’re mine.” - http://file-magazine.com/features/mark-cohen

Mark Cohen was born in 1943 in Wilkes-Barre, a small Pennsylvania mining town. A figure of the street photography genre which dominated American photography in the early 1970s, he is also the inventor of a distinctive photographic language, marked by a fleeting arrangement of lines and, at the same time, an instinctive grasp of the organic, sculptural quality of forms. Two photographs hang opposite each other in his studio: one from Henri Cartier-Bresson’s surrealist period and another by Aaron Siskind. The elegant geometry of one and the dry plenitude of the other transpire in the work of Mark Cohen, which John Szarkowski showed at the MoMA as of 1973.

Over the past 40 years Mark Cohen has walked the length and breadth of the streets in and around his hometown, seizing - or rather extracting - fragments of gestures, postures and bodies. -


Andreas Gursky

Andreas Gursky is a German visual artist known for his large format architecture and landscape color photographs, often employing a high point of view. Visually, Gursky is drawn to large, anonymous, man-made spaces—high-rise facades at night, office lobbies, stock exchanges and the interiors of big box retailers.

He was born in Leipzig in 1955, but he grew up in Düsseldorf, the son of a commercial photographer. In the early 1980s, at Germany’s State Art Academy, the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, Gursky received strong training and influence from his teachers Hilla and Bernd Becher, a photographic team known for their distinctive, dispassionate method of systematically cataloging industrial machinery and architecture. Gursky demonstrates a similarly methodical approach in his own larger-scale photography. Other notable influences are the British landscape photographer John Davies, whose highly detailed high vantage point images had a strong effect on the street level photographs Gursky was then making, and to a lesser degree the American photographer Joel Sternfeld.  - http://www.amusingplanet.com/2012/03/large-scale-urban-photography-by.html

Contacts Vol.2 Andreas Gursky from Mandal Bro on Vimeo.

Contacts Vol.2 Andreas Gursky

One might say that Andreas Gursky learned photography three times. Born in 1955, he grew up in Düsseldorf, the only child of a successful commercial photographer, learning the tricks of that trade before he had finished high school. In the late 1970s, he spent two years in nearby Essen at the Folkwangschule (Folkwang School), which Otto Steinert had established as West Germany’s leading training ground for professional photographers, especially photojournalists. At Essen, Gursky encountered photography’s documentary tradition, a sophisticated art of unembellished observation, whose earnest outlook was remote from the artificial enticements of commercial work. Finally, in the early 1980s, he studied at the Staatliche Kunstakademie (State Art Academy) in Düsseldorf, which thanks to artists such as Joseph Beuys, Sigmar Polke, and Gerhard Richter had become the hotbed of Germany’s vibrant postwar avant-garde. There Gursky learned the ropes of the art world and mastered the rigorous method of Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose photographs had achieved prominence within the Conceptual and Minimal art movements.

When Gursky, together with other Becher students, began to win recognition in the late 1980s, his photography was interpreted as an extension of his teachers’ aesthetic. But the full range of Gursky’s photographic educations has figured in his mature work, enabling him to outgrow all three of them. His photographs—big, bold, rich in color and detail—constitute one of the most original achievements of the past decade and, for all the panache of his signature style, one of the most complex. The exhibition Andreas Gursky surveys that achievement from 1984 to the present. It focuses on work since 1990, when Gursky turned his attention to subjects that struck him as representative of a contemporary zeitgeist—and found equally contemporary ways of picturing them. In pursuit of this project, Gursky expanded his scope of operations from Düsseldorf and its environs to an international itinerary that has taken him to Hong Kong, Cairo, New York, Brasília, Tokyo, Stockholm, Chicago, Athens, Singapore, Paris, and Los Angeles, among other places. His early themes of Sunday leisure and local tourism gave way to enormous industrial plants, apartment buildings, hotels, office buildings, and warehouses. Family outings and hiking trips were replaced by the Olympics, a cross-country marathon involving hundreds of skiers, the German parliament, the trading floors of international stock exchanges, alluring displays of brand-name goods, and midnight techno music raves attended by casts of thousands. Gursky’s world of the 1990s is big, high-tech, fast-paced, expensive, and global. Within it, the anonymous individual is but one among many.

 Bernd and Hilla Becher

Photographers like to document, catalogue and analyse and there is no better example of this than the German collaborative artists Bernd and Hilla Becher. For over 40 years - until Bernd’s death in 2007 - all kinds of industrial architecture from water towers, warehouses, blast furnaces, gas tanks and half-timbered houses came under their scrutinising eye. 

Meeting as painting students in Dusseldorf in 1957 they began collaborating on photographing the disappearing German industrial landscape concentrating, at first, on the Ruhr where Bernd’s family had worked in the steel and mining industries. They were fascinated by the shapes and attracted to the high design ideals of the buildings they photographed, calling them “anonymous sculptures”. With an 8x10inch view camera they photographed the buildings from a number of different angles but always with a straightforward objective point of view. They photographed only on overcast days and early in the morning to avoid shadows. 

At each site they would shoot overviews of the surrounding landscape to show the structures in their context and how each building related to another. Their first project, Framework Houses took close to two decades to complete. In drawing attention to such architecture they helped in many cases to preserve it. The Art Deco Zollern Coal Mine in the Ruhr was designated a protected landmark following publication of their photographs. 

They exhibited the photos in strict formation, grouped by subject, in a grid of six, nine or 15 images and used the word ‘typology’ to describe these ordered sets of photographs. Titles were brief to the point of being almost non-existent and captions noted only time and place.

Towards the end of his life Bernd began teaching at the Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf where his students included Andreas Gursky, Candida Hofer, Thomas Ruff and Elger Esser. As well as inspiring and influencing these and countless other photographers (Stephen Shore worked with Bernd on his first solo show at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf and subsequently took to making an inventory of American life in his series’ American Surfaces and Uncommon Places) - their work also had a big impact on Minimalism and Conceptual Art.


Hiroshi Sugimoto


Early-twentieth century Modernism greatly transformed our lives, liberating the human spirit from untold decoration. No longer needing to draw attention from God, all aristocratic attempts at ostentation have fallen away. At last we avail ourselves of  mechanical aids far beyond our human powers, attaining the freedom to shape things at will.

I decided to trace the beginnings of our age via architecture. Pushing my old large-format camera’s focal length out to twice-infinity―with no stops on the bellows rail, the view through the lens was an utter blur―I discovered that superlative architecture survives, however dissolved, the onslaught of blurred photography. Thus I began erosion-testing architecture for durability, completely melting away many of the buildings in the process. - Hiroshi Sugimoto