Project 1: Research Point – Gregory Crewdson

Watch the YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and consider the following:

  • Do you think there is more to his work than aesthetic beauty?
  • Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
  • What is your main goal in making pictures? Do you think there is anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why, or why not?

Crewdson himself talks about there being more to his work that aesthetic beauty, ‘first and foremost a beautiful aesthetic is not enough.’ He highlights his father’s influence and childhood memories of endeavouring to listen into his therapy conversations. His father was a psychoanalytic therapist and I definitely get the sense of his work trying to reach beneath the surface into the unconscious realm.

I find there is an eeriness to his work, an odd stillness (perhaps induced by the cinematic look) that speaks of either an event that has just occurred or some sort of peril yet to come. I find his images very evocative; they make me stop, think and wonder. I think this also gives them a depth that is absorbing on many layers. As a viewer I find I am often concerned about the personal stories they contain (why do so many of his figures not have shoes on?), but also with Crewdson’s intentions. There is something quite Hitchcockian in his use of the vernacular and he talks about the influence of Hopper and Walker Evans. Although things appear ordinary on the surface there is a sense of the uncanny, something mysterious and possibly menacing.

I have seen several of his documentaries and that leads me to wonder about the production that sits behind each image and the scale of the commitment and preparation they require. Not only does significant preparation go into finding the right locations and creating the set, Crewdson talks about using light and colour to then tell the story. I was interested to learn that the final images are then a composite from across the shoot as a whole – he never uses a single image.

I think the goals for my photography vary dependent on the nature of the work I am involved with but for the most part it is some sort of balance between beauty and story telling. I can also envisage there might be times when I want to provoke or even shock and that could be more about ugliness than beauty.

I don’t see any issue with beauty being the main goal if that is the kind of work you are looking to produce. To me it is an issue of intention and context.