Jeff Wall
Tattoos and Shadows, 2000

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Tattoos and Shadows
Artist name
Jeff Wall
Date created
dye destruction print transparency in aluminum light box
84 1/2 in. × 108 in. × 10 in. (214.63 cm × 274.32 cm × 25.4 cm)
Date acquired
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Accessions Committee Fund purchase: gift of Jean and James E. Douglas, Jr., Carla Emil and Rich Silverstein, Doris and Donald Fisher, and Patricia and Raoul Kennedy
© Jeff Wall
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

How did Wall construct the scene in this photograph?

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SFX: birds chirping



Despite the apparent informality of the scene, this photograph was in fact meticulously reconstructed from memory. Here’s photographer Jeff Wall: 



Tattoos and Shadows came from something I saw right near my house. It was—it was a summer afternoon, walking along; I don’t know where I was going. Next street over, three or four young people, covered with tattoos, sitting under a tree, with the light flickering through the leaves, just like you see in the picture. There’s just something really beautiful about that combination of the fixed inking, you know, of the skin, that’s never gonna go away, And then this other pattern. These two patterns laid on these people’s arms. 

It was just so photographic, such a beautiful subject. I immediately thought, That’s really good. And so probably it was the next summer by the time I got around to doing it. And I just rebuilt it, just as I had said before, with three people; I think there might’ve been four in the original, and it seemed too many. I found another tree, because the place where I photographed it wasn’t pictorially as interesting as I thought I might be able to achieve. But I didn’t take many liberties. In other words, it was a yard with a tree, almost the same situation, but just I liked that tree better, and so on.  

So it came from that real moment, and a kind of inspiration from that of just being convinced that that was a beautiful subject. So the reconstruction is a transformation that leads to something faithful. 

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Other Works by Jeff Wall

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