Research point – Gregory Crewdson

Research point

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online.

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

www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be

I have looked at the work of Gregory Crewdson a couple of times already; whilst I studied EYV here and also for assignment 4 on C & N here, I also recently visited his exhibition ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ at the Photographers Gallery in London. During my previous research I had already viewed the video on the link above but I watched it again today.

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

Yes, absolutely. As Crewdson explains at the start of the video clip the first element or part of his photography  is to ‘make a beautiful picture’ but as he goes on to explain just having a beautiful picture isn’t enough. I can relate to this as I have found it hard to connect with some photographic work I have seen which is good only on a technical and aesthetic basis. For example if I look at some commercial photography or advertising photography, I find it is often well constructed with beautiful lighting often in beautiful locations but the overall photographic experience has left me feeling emotionally cold and disconnected. Crewdson explains in the video he feels that’ beauty needs to be undercut with an undercurrent of something psychological or dangerous or desirous or fearful’.

On a side note, its interesting to read some of the YouTube comments below the video (I acknowledge it can be dangerous to delve into the opinions of on line commentators). It would appear Crewdson’s work is a bit like Vegemite. Some suggesting he isn’t even a photographer at all now, more of an artistic director with a large crew who do all of the work for him and that he doesn’t even take the photographs himself. All art is subjective.

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

I think Crewdson’s work is beautifully staged photography, using well constructed sets with considered lighting, props, locations, crews and actors. For me I find its often the actors (that add the human element) look of despair, the stare into the abyss that brings it all together. Otherwise these would just be well lit, constructed, empty spaces (both physically and emotionally). I often find when I’m sat thinking I have the same look, as if I’m staring into space, yet my brain is extremely active. To reference the wonderful Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, I am lost within my ‘Memory Warehouse’. Maybe its just something we do as humans to concentrate/focus, either way for me I think it works really well as a mechanism for expressing tension within photography.

The actors within Crewdson’s photography are primarily looking away from the camera/viewer. They often look off to the side, down at the floor or stare into the nothingness. Its as if we are peering into their world as a spectator, almost an emotional voyeurism, we can see into their world but they can’t see us and don’t know we are there.  As I have said above I don’t think the photographs would have the same psychological feel to them without the human element. So I guess we as the observers are trying to figure out ‘what is this person thinking?’, ‘what just happened to them?’, ‘what’s going on in this scene?’. I think if the actors/subjects looked directly at the camera and laughed or pulled a funny face it would entirely change the whole feel of the photographs. The lighting and composition add to the beauty and atmosphere of the shots but its the human element and staging, for me anyway, that provides a lot of that psychological tension.

What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong
with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

My main goal when taking a picture varies entirely based on what I am photographing and for what reason. I don’t want to tie myself down to one overall goal. Whilst taking a photograph of wildlife my goal maybe to capture it in good light to show of the animals distinct colours or I may be trying to capture a funny moment or a decisive moment, something that would make people stop to look at the photograph. If I were photographing a lion for example my goal may be to capture the majesty of the animal. If I were photographing an animal in the sea or just the oceans in general my goal maybe environmental; to highlight the pollution and rise of plastic in the oceans destroying their habitat.

I would like to the think my images do or will share the goal of being considered. By that I mean applying my learning, knowledge and experience to capture and create images that make people want to look for longer than a simple glance. I do want them to look good but I’m not sure beautiful is necessarily the word I would want to use as it implies good looking or attractive. I would much rather create photography that makes you feel something or gets a reaction from you. Beauty isn’t enough.

Its a hard question to answer, do I think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal in photography? I think in certain circumstances it would work to make beauty your main goal, commercial photography, advertising, fashion/modelling, perhaps landscape photography as well. For me personally, I want more than just beauty so I would say it isn’t my main goal but I do acknowledge it is an important element.

I think it could be more important to capture a moment but its equally important to have the right tools and skills at your disposal to capture that moment.

I guess this is all a bit different when we are specifically considering staged/tableau photography. I would like to think the light, placement of actors, props and set have all been considered and are there for a reason because you have a lot of time to think it through.

Reference:

Gregory Crewdson’s Photography Capturing a Movie Frame | Art in Progress | Reserve Channel

Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher on Amazon

 

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