Category Archives: Research points part 5 (constructed realities and the fabricated image)

Research point: Gregory Crewdson

Watch this you tube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below.

Unfortunately the link to the video is no longer available so I will answer the questions in relation to my understanding of Crewdson’s work generally. I found this alternative video below and have used this as a source of images with which to inform my answer.

 

I also came across this interesting interview (below) which shows Crewdson as a child and refers to the beginnings of his photography and how his first images grew into his first staged photographs.

https://www.nowness.com/story/gregory-crewdson-beginnings

Do you think there is more to this work that aesthetic beauty?

Crewdson himself says that ‘ultimately, the most important thing is to create a beautiful picture and I go to enormous pains in my use of color, light and atmosphere to create as beautiful an image as I possibly can. (Nowness.com, 2018). However in the video above Crewdson says that his intention is also to create the ‘sensation of looking at something that’s both familiar and mysterious at the same time’.  He says that in all his images he hopes for something that feels ‘ordinary but tinged with a kind of beauty and terror’. Crewdson explores the relationship between life and art and I think this sums up what I feel about his images; these are real life scenarios but with a  staging that blurs the line between real and constructed. Rather like Realism in fiction is not necessarily portraying actual ‘real life’ but constructed to make a reader think that it could be real life (think Frankenstein).

  

Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?

In the video above Crewdson says that he always wants his images ‘to have a certain kind of ambiance, a certain kind of  feel’. Crewdson mentions Spielberg and Hitchcock which leads me to think of the genres of thriller and horror … I get the feeling that it is all a bit ‘spooky in suburbia’. Yes, he succeeds in making his work psychological, his pictures are disturbing. There are deserted roads, single cars at night, looking into peoples homes at twilight and people laying awake in bed at night. All ordinary scenes but made disturbing through lighting and viewpoint as though we are watching something private and left wondering what is happening.

Crewdson image ‘untitled (awake) 2001

Night time is a typically scary time and directors take advantage of the dark, the night and the silence to create horror and suspense. The same is here in this image, what has happened, what is she thinking, what will she do?

I cant help but think of Hitchcock’s film based on Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds here; ordinary children singing nursery rhymes and then the bird pecking at a woman’s head. ‘Disturbing’ is the word for the film and this is the word that I attach to Crewdson’s images. 

What is your main goal when making pictures?

I am finding at the moment that I rarely go out with my camera unless there is a reason for taking the images. Just taking ‘nice’ images is not a good enough reason for me at the moment. I went out with some girlfriends last night and one of them asked me about my photography course. I said to her ‘forget about weddings, and about robins in the snow, and nice sunsets’ and I suppose this is what I mean. My pictures now have to have a message. I would only take ‘meaningless’ images now, as a way of practicing and improving my technical skills; my main goal is to articulate something.

Do you think there is anything wrong with making beauty your main goal?

I remember studying instrumentalism and aestheticism during the course of my literature degree several years ago, and considering the idea of ‘art for art’s sake’ compared with the idea that art should have a purpose. Mainly the learning was around the debate between the aestheticists  who valued beauty over meaning (like Oscar Wilde) and the Instrumentalists who thought that art should be educational in some way (like George Orwell). In reality, most pieces of work, whether literature or  photography meet somewhere in the middle.

There is nothing wrong with an image taken for aesthetic reasons only; just a different audience and a different result. Beautiful landscapes and portraits to hang on your wall have a very different purpose to images taken to further a cause or to highlight a social concern. So, it all depends.

Some commentators say that Crewdson’s images lack the subtlety of Wall and DiCorcia’s work. What do you think?

I have seen some of Crewdson’s work already during the course and to a point I feel that I could recognise one and say ‘oh, that’s a Crewdson’ which shows that they have a certain ‘look’ about them connected with their lighting and their staging; as Crewdson says, he sees ‘light as something you can choreograph in a way’.

It may be interesting to compare three random images, one each by Crewdson, Wall and DiCorcia.  All three images are meticulously staged but even though all three show something unusual (a man standing alone in the middle of the road, a man laying on the kitchen floor and a naked man staring in a shop window) it is Crewdson’s image that looks a little more ‘artificial’. The backdrop of shops almost looks painterly with the greens and purples and  has an empty stage set feel about it. The reflections of the wet road look dramatic and the twilight and colour hue gives an eerie feel as though something is about to happen. The depth of field draws our eye out of the image and hints as something ’round the corner’ in a way that is not present in Walls and DiCorcia’s images. In their images the action is ‘contained’ within the image. What we see is what we get; there are no surprises in store.

Image by Gregory Crewdson (Nowness.com, 2018)

Image by Jeff Wall (Christies.com, 2018)

Image by Philip -Lorca DiCorcia (Time.com, 2018)

In the video above I was intrigued at the extent of the stage set seen at 2:01. Crewdson has a team of professionals and access to film like production equipment. No doubt the others do too but Crewdson’s work is almost like film making where each image could form part of a film rather than just be an individual staged shot.

Bibliography

Nowness.com. (2018). {{ ($root.post && $root.post.id) ? $root.post.translations[$root.lang].socialTitle : $root.seo.pageTitle | translate }}. [online] Available at: https://www.nowness.com/story/gregory-crewdson-beginnings [Accessed 9 Mar. 2018].

 

Nowness.com. (2018). {{ ($root.post && $root.post.id) ? $root.post.translations[$root.lang].socialTitle : $root.seo.pageTitle | translate }}. [online] Available at: https://www.nowness.com/series/photographers-in-focus/gregory-crewsdon [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].

Christies.com. (2018). JEFF WALL (B. 1946) , Insomnia. [online] Available at: https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/jeff-wall-b-1946-insomnia-1308823-details.aspx [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].

 

Time.com. (2018). Trade: Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hollywood Hustlers. [online] Available at: http://time.com/3803327/trade-philip-lorca-dicorcias-hollywood-hustlers-drug-addicts-and-drifters/ [Accessed 23 Mar. 2018].

 

 

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