Gregory Crewdson works with photographic tableaux - where everyday scenes look natural, but contain actors and fairly elaborate compositions. These set-pieces are often like a theatrical encapsulation of life, a slight tweak to the normality of everyday existence that creates an aura of mystical beauty.
Using similar techniques - from lighting to casting - as cinema, Crewdson’s influences clearly belong outside of photography. Although there are many photographers that have helped guide his course through the medium, it is towards painting and film that the Brooklynite most often looks to.
The films he likes say a lot about the approach he takes to his art. Vertigo, Blue Velvet and Close Encounters of the Third Kind all drip with tension and atmosphere. These taut thrillers are at their best when the audience are under the illusion that anything could happen. Whether it does or not is beside the point.
The drama of Crewdson’s pieces lie in this sense of expectation. It’s like the audience are seeing something just before or just after a life-changing event will or has occurred in the image. Stylised noirish lighting plays its part in this, with certain features of the scenery often highlighted, where other parts are drenched in darkness.
Flitting between light and dark, innumerable minute incidents take place. These unseen moments contribute to one larger picture, something where these multitude of realities build into one precise moment - the one captured in Crewdon’s photograph.
Subsumed by this ethereal expression, the definitive search of meaning in between the melancholic moments of life, mixed with the spirituality of death and afterlife, Crewdon managed to completely subvert the straightforward notion of white picket-fence suburban life with something far more immense.
Shakespearean in their melodrama, the contemporary settings make his photographs feel like a reimagined past, one that reached its peak towards the end of the 20th century. Whilst traditional in setting, the subject matter always remains experimental. Evocative of Edward Hopper, whose paintings similarly captured life as it was, but also as he imagined it to be, Crewdson occupies a unique place in American photography.
Using big budget productions to create his high-concept imagery, Crewdson’s photographs are nothing less than cinematic. His world’s are the same as ours, but also very different. Nuanced and ephemeral, a place that we hope will one day become its own feature length.
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