As I mentioned in a previous post, great images ask a question of the viewer…
One of my recent sources of inspiration is the street photographer Vivian Maier and the story of how her work was discovered.
If she had an antithesis it would have to be Gregory Crewdson.
Unlike Maier, who seemed to have an amazing ability to capture fleeting moments in time with an incredible knack for being in exactly the right spot at the right time, Crewdson goes to near outrageous lengths to craft his apparently fleeting photographic moments.
Working at a mind-boggling scale, Crewdson creates his highly crafted surreal images and are very cinematic.
Highly orchestrated and contrived, each of his single images invokes a great “story response” from the viewer. He’s most interested in the urban and environment and especially the house and the way we interact with our home living spaces. These subjects seem on the surface kind of mundane, but peer deeper into the image and you’ll discover fantastic visual clues imbedded in the image that create a sense of unease and tension.
He also seems to have the same sense of the moment when the image is created.
What I love about his work is that you really have to take in all the detail and think about what’s really going on. Like Maier, this *reading* process creates a narrative timeline that self-writes a story as you digest the visuals. His narratives are perhaps far more manufactured and less open than the naturalism of Maier. You feel Crewdson’s hand in the storytelling, but his images are so intriguing you still feel the need to lean into them to find out what’s going on.
His lighting is also highly stylised and he goes to great lengths to create his images, building elaborate sets and using cinema style lighting techniques to create images that on the surface appear serendipitous. He has a large crew to help in creating the work, just like on a motion picture set. In fact he’s really just like a director and I’ve read his work critiqued as a photographer for not being hands on enough. He does apparently though, do everything in camera. Whatever it takes, he’ll build a set or use real water for rain. No cloning or CG used.
I’m very much reminded of surrealist director’s like David Lynch when I look at Crewdson’s work.
Crewdson’s work invokes an unease and disquiet, like you’ve watching ordinary citizens in the midst of extraordinary events. These images are highly filmic and completely compelling.