Jeff Wall: glossary


Staged photographs that require sets, actors, costumes and the kind of techniques normally associated with film production.

Jeff Wall A ventriloquist at a birthday party in October 1947 1990

Jeff Wall A ventriloquist at a birthday party in October 1947 1990Transparency in lightbox 2290 x 3520 mmCinematographic photograph

Collection of the artist. Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York© The artist


Straight photographs of everyday things that the artist has observed. They often depict inanimate objects or overlooked spaces.

Jeff Wall Diagonal Composition 1993

Jeff Wall Diagonal Composition 1993Transparency in lightbox 400 x 460 mmDocumentary photograph

Purchased from Marian Goodman Gallery, New York (General Funds) 2003© The artist

Near Documentary

These pictures may be reconstructions of events that Wall has witnessed or they may be documentary photographs that involved a small degree of intervention by the artist. The resulting pictures occupy a middle ground between fiction and documentary.

Jeff Wall Man in Street 1995

Jeff Wall Man in Street 19952 transparencies in lightbox, each 540 x 660 mmCinematographic photograph

Rijksmuseum Kröller Müller, Otterlo © The artist


Many of Wall’s pictures feature someone speaking, a presence that implies a recounting of a story or a subjective experience in contrast to the silence of the photograph.

Jeff Wall The Storyteller 1986

Jeff Wall The Storyteller 1986Transparency in lightbox 2290 x 4370 mmCinematographic photograph

Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main© The artist


A construction, often used for advertising purposes, of an photographic image mounted in a metal-edged box with florescent tube lighting behind it to lend it a hyper-real glow. Wall’s colour photographs are transparencies mounted in light-boxes.

View of Jeff Wall 1978 - 2004 exhibition at Tate Modern

View of exhibition Jeff Wall 1978 - 2004 at Tate Modern


Since 1991, Wall has created many of his photographs with the aid of digital montage. This technique involves using a computer to assemble separate photographs into a single, coherent picture.

Jeff Wall, ‘A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)’ 1993
Jeff Wall
A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993
© Jeff Wall