Stephen Waddell began his artistic career as a painter. He then moved to film and finally photography. All three media have affected his choice and presentation of subject matter. Waddell studied under Jeff Wall, and became interested in Wall’s preoccupation with the continuity of painting’s visual traditions and strategies in contemporary photographic practice.
Waddell roams the streets, following people for blocks, filming them from behind. His goal is to understand the human figure in the modern environment, a preoccupation of many artists since the mid-nineteenth century. His approach differs from traditional street photography. He searches not for the spontaneously composed moment, but for the one that appears as if it has been staged for the camera. (Man with a Red Sash )
From the very start of his artistic career, Waddell has treated his subject matter more as types than individuals such as Pedestrian No. 1. Waddell’s very act of stalking his subjects and taking their photograph from behind necessarily reduces their individuality. The viewer sees a general state of the human condition rather than overt expressions of personality or uniqueness. The theatricality of the image is one found, not created. Individuals become formal components in the art of image making. His photographs attest to an art culture where, for both the artist and the knowledgeable viewer, images, saturated with references to art history and photography, create a self-enclosed system of meaning.