Research point: Gregory Crewdson

In the context of ‘tableaux vivants’ (living pictures) as opposed to ‘nature morte’ (dead nature – still life), I look at the work of Gregory Crewdson.

For this research, I watched a 50 minute lecture by Crewdson, in which he also shared his images on screen. It was hosted by Haggerty Museum of Art and shared on YouTube . I took notes, with times in the video noted in the left margin – attached below.

Crewdson’s work is hugely influenced by cinema and he mentions Close Encounters and Blue Velvet in particular as having influence on his own work. He talks about a tension between beauty and sadness and stillness and unease and wanting to create work that is somewhere between the real and the cinematic. While he enjoys the narrative qualities of cinema, he explains that he was drawn to photography because of its limitations in conveying narrative; how it leaves open ended questions. This works with his aim of representing tension.

While I’m already familiar with Crewdson’s work, I was unaware of the extent of his engagement with cinematic processes in making his images that he discusses. For example the use of sound stages to create buildings and rooms from scratch based on architectural drawings, and the use of snow/rain/fog machines. His work Beneath the Roses took 8 years to make, ‘on a cinematic scale’.

Crewdson talks about his cinematic approach to post-production and how he can take months compositing a single image (‘why they have amazing focus’). Also, how the final image will have little connection to the actuality of what he saw. While post-production is seen as a separate and significant event by many photographers, Crewdson’s seems close to cinema.

While I have neither the means or inclination to embark on tableau vivant to the scale and complexity of Grewdson, I’ve gradually become more interested in staging photographs (during Self and Other) and may well do so in my upcoming work.