Research Point – Gregory Crewdson

A frustrating start – the link doesn’t work so I have emailed the office asking for assistance. Gregory Crewdson is not someone whose work I would choose to spend a lot of time with, even after visiting his Cathedral of Pines exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery (or perhaps because of that). Looking back I see that I don’t seem to have blogged that show, even though I was sure I had done, so I will respond on the basis of the knowledge and exposure that I have of his work.

Update – I found this video:

I think there is more to his work than aesthetic beauty. There’s a raft of technical expertise – the lighting in particular can be breathtaking. The scale is vast, often involving a cast of hundreds, and yet there can be perfect little details like the light spilling out from a slightly open closet door. Undoubtedly, every detail is considered on a vast scale, and thus there is more to this work than “aesthetic beauty”. The crunch though for me is whether that “more” engages me, pulls me in, leaves me asking questions long after walking away from the work.  For me, it doesn’t. I find the work impersonal, a little too “polished”. I wonder why so many of the women are shown naked. I wonder if this is the kind of question Crewdson wanted people to be left thinking about. I wonder why the same duck egg blue bedding turns up in multiple shots of different scenarios. Perhaps it’s meant to show a motel standard bedding, perhaps it’s just a slip.

I’m not sure about the use of the term “psychological”. Shouldn’t all good work make you think? Is it a reference to “psychological thrillers”? Perhaps so, where the narrative depends on mental instability or delusion. Certainly, Crewdson’s worlds do not look like a happy one though I do find something to enjoy in his photograph of a woman tending a garden in her kitchen.

My goal in making work is exploration – being able to climb inside a concept and see what I can make, what shapes I can stretch it into, how I can explore the commonality of that concept across multiple people. I identify with Crewdson’s view about finding the strange in the every day, whereas I like to find the unspoken common things in the every day, the things that are there all the time but that we don’t talk about.

I don’t think beauty is a main goal for me. I want to make work that engages people though, that makes them look and think, and beauty seems to be one way (but not the only way) of achieving this. It’s so wretchedly subjective that there’s no way for an image to appear beautiful to everyone.  I think about my pregnancy test photographs in EYV and my self portraits for this course, and there’s no way that these could be considered beautiful but I’d like to think that people still engage with them. If people want to make beautiful work that makes its point or provokes questions, then I can’t see a problem with that. Beauty can be a very arbitrary characteristic anyway, so I would want my work to have other qualities too.

I agree that Crewdson’s work is very cinematic. It really does feel like film stills and I wonder if this is part of what draws people into his work. People are familiar with film in a way that they may not be familiar with art photography, and the bones of a narrative are right there in each image, ready for viewers to engage with. Somehow though the work lacks intimacy for me. I think of Tom Hunter’s work and how these suggest the story without so much of a constructed feel, it’s easier for me to slide into the image and its story without being aware of a vast crew of technicians, extras, and everyone that Crewdson needs to make his images happen. The gaze feels slightly stilted, slightly diluted and spread too thinly. It all feels a bit “block buster” to me, and I prefer quieter stories. His “Fireflies” work looks more engaging to me – still made after dusk but with a far more intimate and less engineered feel to it.

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