I attended, with several hundred other people, Jeff Wall's talk given at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. My "take away" points:
Welcome the accident. As one of the most meticulous photographers I know of, it was refreshing to learn how much Jeff Wall welcomes chance. He stressed he is unable to know, ahead of time, what the right photo will be. This does not say he doesn't plan what he wants, but he welcomes the unexpected. So many amateur photographers I talk to are obsessed with their internal need to "control everything". I think they are trapped by some version of Ansel Adams' quote: "In my mind's eye, I visualize how a particular... sight and feeling will appear on a print.." They feel that any "accident" cannot be truly "theirs" - as they did not "create" it. What a pity. Photographers should rejoice in the opportunities given to us by our unpredictable world.
Take many photographs, select later. Jeff Wall has embraced digital photography in a big way - the ability to select the one photograph that stands out as the best from many (even thousands). Again - many amateurs feel that this would be "cheating" - and get hung up in their creative process.
While my photography couldn't be more different from Jeff Wall's - I did find a connection: Jeff Wall creates a "false reality" from a "true" incident he has actually experienced. That is, he recreates a real situation using a set and actors, much like making a movie. In my photography I do the opposite - I try to create a "false staged moment" from "true" reality. May people have asked me whether my photographs are staged, as they appear to them surreal in some way, which is what triggered this thought.
I like Jeff Wall's idea of being able to "capture" moments without a camera (so they are "real", with no camera to affect the subjects) - and recreating them later. I do not know how, or if, to use this idea - but it does make me think further on the relationship between photography, memory and reality.
And then, just the next day - out of the blue - I heard that a photograph of mine was selected to be one of 10 photography finalists in the 2010 Celeste Prize Exhibition in New York between 11th of 13th of December 2010 (http://www.celesteprize.com/eng_1261)
Winning this competition is not important. Being selected from many by a professional jury is enough. One of the judges selecting my work wrote to me: "I found it a strangely beautiful image, not only for formal reasons, but like a good photographs it possessed an inexplicable inner life".
This exhibition does provide me the opportunity and justification to be in New York again. I do want the chance to see my photograph hanging on an exhibition wall for every one to see. Isn't it true that a picture can become Art only when viewed by someone?