Jeff Wall. After "Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue. 1999-2000 32

Silver dye bleach transparency; aluminum light box, 5 ft. 8 1/2 in. × 8 ft. 2 3/4 in. (174 × 250.8 cm). The Photography Council Fund, Horace W. Goldsmith Fund through Robert B. Menschel, and acquired through the generosity of Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder and Carol and David Appel. © 2022 Jeff Wall

Writer, Adam Bradley: This is a photograph based on a novel by an author named Ralph Ellison, a book called Invisible Man. This is an image that invites questioning about what we see, what might be happening, and how we make sense of things that seem not to make sense at first.

Lyric: Where is it? Where is this place? Who is the person in the photo? What is his backstory?

Adam Bradley: The image describes one of the settings in the book where the main character has found an abandoned basement and made it into his own personal hideout, equipping it with a total of 1,369 light bulbs, including everything from a record player where he can listen to his music to a refrigerator where he can keep his favorite vanilla ice cream. The book describes a character that the author calls a “thinker-tinker,” a kind of inventor.

Kanon: Why is the room so messy?

Adam Bradley: Yeah, this room is pretty messy. I want you to think about when your room is messy. What does that usually mean? At least for my daughters, it means they’ve been spending a lot of time there. Often it means they’ve been having a lot of fun, maybe creating something. Well, that’s exactly what this character has been doing. He’s been living in this space, writing a book. He’s making something. And so, yeah, it’s probably natural that the place is a bit of a mess.

Maisie: Why would the title be “Invisible Man”? Because from the looks of it, he’s not invisible.

Adam Bradley: Have you ever felt that someone didn’t see you? Think about times that you’ve been overlooked or ignored. It’s happened to all of us. Well, in this image, we see a character who is grappling with that kind of invisibility. We can still see him. But he feels, in this moment, at least, unseen.

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