Multiple quantum well (MQW) structures (12) are utilized to provide real-time, reliable, high-performance, optically-addressed spatial-light modulators (SLM) (10). The optically-addressed SLM comprises a vertical stack of quantum well layers (12a) within the penetration depth of an optical write signal 18, a plurality of space charge barriers (12b) having predetermined tunneling times by control of doping and thickness. The material comprising the quantum well layers has a lower bandgap than that of the space charge barrier layers. The write signal modulates a read signal (20). The modulation sensitivity of the device is high and no external voltage source is required. In a preferred embodiment, the SLM having interleaved doped semiconductor layers for driving the MQW photovoltaically is characterized by the use of a shift analogous to the Moss-Burnstein shift caused by the filling of two-dimensional states in the multiple quantum wells, thus allowing high modulation sensitivity in very narrow wells. Arrays (30) may be formed with a plurality of the modulators.