Today I made another visit to The Photographers Gallery in London, this time to see the Gregory Crewdson exhibition ‘Cathedral of the Pines’. As ever its a long journey/day up to London from where I live, followed by a decent walk when I get there but its good to stretch the legs after the bus journey. Having enjoyed the other work I had seen by Crewdson in the ‘Twilight’ series and others I had viewed on-line I was excited to see more of his work.
By the time I got to the gallery I was knackered. It was good to get off the street and into the quiet of the exhibition space. Far too many people.
The exhibition is spread over 3 floors and the gallery are also doing a special edition of their magazine to accompany the exhibition, so I picked up a copy. I found the work to be of an exceptional standard, stunning, captivating, dramatic and tense.
I found ‘Cathedral of the Pines’ to be fascinating because you are not presented with definitive answers or solutions, just clues and hints at a narrative. I spent a lot of time at the exhibition trying to draw out a story from the images and trying to link them together into a theme. Some of the images feel like they could be grouped into sub stories or narratives with this overarching idea of nature linking them altogether.
There is a definite stylistic approach to all of the images that links them, the colours, tones and lighting, along with the pairing of inside and outside spaces in a number of the images. I think the work is very subjective to your own interpretation. Having viewed a number of interviews (after my visit) with Crewdson about this particular piece of work I think that was his intention. I went to the exhibition not knowing a lot about it, I was drawn to it because a) I love the outdoors and nature, I feel a deep connection with it and b) I liked Crewdson’s other work.
Some of the images like the one below (sorry about the bad snapshot) seemed to suggest to me a murder mystery or a thriller, like frames from a movie – I have noticed this in other photography by Crewdson as well which is part of his whole style and the staged photography genre . I think this is all part of the psychological tension and atmosphere that Crewdson creates so well in his imagery. Love it.
I noticed all of the images have a big depth of field with lots of detail, everything within the frame is considered; lighting, props, location, subject and composition. A story is suggested but not forced. I like the idea of a suggested, rather than forced narrative.
Although the images suggest another time, like the older cars and props I can’t pinpoint the images in any exact period. They feel like they could be 1980’s or late 1970’s if I had to pin it down. Although it could also suggest a remote community. There is no sense of modern (current) technology within the images i.e. computers, smart-phones, etc. Having watched interviews with Crewdson this would seem to be intentional to not pin the images down t any particular period, it feels familiar but off. I also noticed in the interview how Crewdson said how this work was more a reflection on painting than film and I can really see that in the final images.
After the exhibition visit I went and sat in a park in London, I had to take the time to process everything I had just viewed, get some head-space, I often find this with work that means something to me. This one was pretty special.
As I sit here a little over a week later typing up this exhibition visit I am still amazed and most importantly I am still thinking about it. I feel a connection (I actually feel something) with Crewdson’s photography and some of the ideas rattling around in my own brain artistically. I sometimes come away from exhibitions feeling disconnected and deflated but for once, its nice to have a connection and feel motivated.
I had noticed during some of my research on-line someone had said if you like Crewdson’s work to check out the photography of Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Phil Fisk. I did have a quick look, I can see the similarities, in particular the way they are lit. So, I am off to find out some more.
Interview with Gregory Crewdson on The Photographers Gallery website