Jeff Wall: room guide, room 2

In these panoramic images, all documentary pictures, Wall studies the relation of modern forms of settlement to the natural environment.

Jeff Wall The Bridge 1980

Jeff Wall The Bridge 1980Transparency in lightbox 605 x 2285 mmDocumentary photograph

Friedrich Christian Flick Collection© The artist

Jeff Wall The Old Prison 1987

Jeff Wall The Old Prison 1987Transparency in lightbox 70 x 2285 mmDocumentary photograph

Collection Jörg Johnen© The artist

Steve’s Farm, Steveston 1980

While the two works in the previous room were carefully staged, here, in his first documentary photograph, Wall chooses a location he knows well, on the fringes of his home city of Vancouver. The scale of the work evokes traditional landscape painting. The familiar device of the sweeping pathway leading to the horizon enhances this effect, while the tiny figure on the path underlines the openness of the landscape. However, the elements that make up the scene – a scattering of suburban housing, a few farmyard animals and an expanse of bare, scrubby track – are a far cry from idealised visions of pastoral landscape. Wall often selects these transitional environments, where urban life meets nature. ‘I make landscapes, or cityscapes as the case may be, to study the process of settlement as well as to work out for myself what the kind of picture (or photograph) we call “landscape” is’, he has explained.

Jeff Wall Steves Farm, Steveston 1980

Jeff Wall Steves Farm, Steveston 1980Transparency in lightbox 580 x 2286 mmDocumentary photograph

Frac Nord–Pas de Calais, Dunkerque, France© The artist