Gregory Crewdson

16th February 2020

I am not doing to well here. I was checking off my work to make sure everything was completed and I have found that I had not researched Gregory Crewdson or Hannah Starkey who both came with the Assignment three research. So on this wet and stormy Sunday I am having to catch up yet again.

I have been looking at images on Google search and my initial reaction is ‘OK.’ I am not sure whether because my mental health is quite flat at the moment as I haven’t slept properly for a couple of weeks or if I really can’t muster up something to say about the work.

I am intrigued when I see the images. It is a little like one of those games where you have to find objects hidden in the image. There is much information in the surroundings speckled with motionless people, sometimes clothed and sometimes nude, just sitting or standing there.

What is the message we should be getting from the lavish scenes, mood lighting and the motionless, facial expressionless people?

Are we too approach the images as real or fiction?

What is the real purpose of Crewdson’s works?

How much work do we as viewers have to do to understand the intent behind the content? Or do we just except the content for what it is and enjoy their nerving beauty?

I think of these words and phrases when looking at his work:

  • Lavish sets and scenes
  • Theatrical
  • Film stills
  • Technical lighting
  • Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Lost (people)
  • Motionless (people)
  • Void (people)
  • Tormented (people)

Crewdson’s career has spanned three decades. The work reminds me of film stills because of the amount of information held within them and the cinematic lighting techniques used. If you watch and listen to the youTube video below, ‘Photographers in Focus: Gregory Crewdson’, you will learn that not only does he have a crew of people working for him but Rick Sands who is his director of photography. Crewdson doesn’t get involved with the production of his ideas and he himself has said he doesn’t have a direct relationship with his camera, he never has and never has been that type of photographer.

My questions therefore are, ‘How can he be a photographer?’ ‘Isn’t he just an idea man?’ In my mind this is so bizarre.

3 minute introduction by Crewdson on his work.
Uploaded by NOWNESS 11.09.17

Notes below for the above YouTube video:

I have watched another YouTube video about a body of work called. ‘Cathedral of the Pines.’

Crewdson talks about the work and what it means to him, he has a personal connection and he says that he is, ‘… creating a world that is real and imagined…”

I have to disagree with this statement, you cannot have both. You can have one influencing the other but both cannot be present in the same image. I feel his work is definitely fictional and he himself goes on to say that he considers himself a story teller and if this is the case then a story is an account of events told for entertainment and not to document an event that is real.

The idea as story teller also fits in with his production techniques and styles as he is more a less a director who envisages an idea and who oversees the production with his own director of photography, Rick Sands, a crew, lighting and actors/ models.

The YouTube video about ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ can be seen below:

Gregory Crewdson discusses his new work, “Cathedral of the Pines,” on view at Gagosian Gallery January 28 – March 5, 2016.
Uploaded by The New Yorker 20.01.16

Notes to accompany the above YouTube video:

I particularly loved the above photograph by Crewdson, ‘Women in Bathroom’ 2013. I specifically have cropped into the portrait where we can see the reflection of the subject twice, I just think this composition of head, torso and gaze direction amazing, so dynamic. The earth tones of this image also give a sense of the Romantic palette , earth tones mixed with neutrals, I could just see this as a painting with the diffused, soft light that caresses the flesh. It is beautiful.

I chose to comment on the image below because Crewdson commented that he wanted his images to be almost saying literally ‘nothing.’ He wanted the meanings all to be on light, atmosphere and colour. He only wanted a little story to entice the viewer in and to create a sense of mystery. “There are no answers in these pictures just questions,” Crewdson, Cathedral of the Pines Youtube video.

If we look at the image we are drawn right into the picture plane to look at the very small figures in the mid ground beneath the bridge. We then question what are they doing? Who are they?

The figures are minute, dwarfed by the immense size of the bridge, lost in their surroundings. The colours are again mute and flat, giving, in this instance, a cold and forboding atmosphere.

Have my thoughts and feelings changed around Crewsdon’s work from ‘OK’ and ‘intrigue’ to a more positive and enlightened response?

To begin with the inquisitive and intrigued thoughts that I had when I first came across Crewsdon’s work is exactly how the photographer wanted me, as a viewer to react. As already stated in my writing above he wanted the viewer to be caught in a small hint of a story and then to ask questions. So he has successfully engaged me as he wanted.

Once engaged how did I respond to the work? Did I feel his sense of reality and fiction combined, did I fall into the world that he has invented and lapped up its atmosphere, light and colour?

Yes, actually I did fall into his world and love the relationships between atmosphere, colour and light that his crew and director had created. Then, second to this attractive ambience I became interested in his subjects and their surroundings and wanted to make sense of what they were doing and who they were. Therefore his work did catch my interest.

However, I don’t know why but I still wouldn’t run out and buy a book on his work. To me, I feel this work isn’t a combination of reality and story but only story because the set up is so lavish it is akin to the many films and digital images that we are bombarded with in todays modern world. Reality isn’t at all like this. Where would you stumble on such scenes? Nude people just standing in a clearing of woods or beneath a bridge? Where would you locate such amazing atmospheric back drops and dilapidated buildings? You wouldn’t so his work really is only a created world from his imagination.

Perhaps it is because the images are so reminisencent of the perfect film set that I cannot absorb the content as a piece of artwork, I really don’t understand my response. But I have learnt much from the concept within his work connected with atmosphere, colour and use of lighting so at least I go away with some positive aspects.


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