“American photographer Gregory Crewdson has made a distinctive contribution to the aesthetics of photography with his ambitious and beautifully crafted work whose aesthetic owes as much to history painting and cinema as it does to contemporary photography. His disturbingly beautiful, large-scale, small-town American landscape narratives created a distinctive and perplexing world; his latest work deploys the melancholy strangeness of Cinecitta’s ruins to create a different kind of photographic uncanny.
Gregory Crewdson is professor (adjunct) of photography at the Yale University School of Art. He has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe. Crewdson’s work is represented in many public collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He has received numerous awards, including the Skowhegan Medal for Photography, the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists Fellowship, and the Aaron Siskind Fellowship. Gregory Crewdson has published several books of his photographs including Hover (1995), Twilight (2003), and a retrospective book of his work, Gregory Crewdson from 1985 to 2005 (2005). Beneath the Roses (2008) was published in concurrence with this series.
Crewdson received a B.A. from the State University of New York at Purchase in 1985 and an M.F.A. in photography from Yale University in 1988. As a teacher, he has held positions at Sarah Lawrence College, Cooper Union, the School of Visual Arts, the State University of New York at Purchase, and Vassar. He was appointed to the Yale faculty in 1993.” @ Uncanny Landscapes
If you did not take notes during the screening you should follow up by listening to the artist talk recorded at the University of Sydney.
See link below.
Gregory Crewdson Sydney University Artist Talk / Lecture podcast
This Case Study follows on from the viewing of the documentary ‘Brief Encounters’
The Artist / Photographer
“Gregory Crewdson is an American photographer who is best known for elaborately staged, surreal scenes of American homes and neighbourhoods.
Crewdson was born in Park Slope, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. As a teenager was part of a punk rock group called ‘The Speedies’ that hit the New York scene in shows that sold out shows all over town. Their hit song “Let Me Take Your Foto” proved to be prophetic to what Crewdson would become later in life. In 2005, Hewlett Packard used the song in advertisements to promote its digital cameras.
In the mid 1980s Crewdson studied photography at SUNY Purchase. He received his Master of Fine Arts from Yale University. He has taught at Sarah Lawrence, Cooper Union, Vassar College and Yale University where he has been on the faculty since 1993.
Crewdson is represented in New York at the Luhring Augustine Gallery and in London by the White Cube Gallery” @ RO Gallery
1988 Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, CT, M.F.A.
1985 SUNY Purchase, NY, B.A.
2004 Skowhegan Medal for Photography, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture
“Gregory Crewdson: Fireflies,” Skarstedt Fine Art and Luhring Augustine, New York. (exhibition catalogue)
“Gregory Crewdson: 1985-2005,” Kunstverein Hannover, with text by Stephan Berg, Martin Hochleitner, Katy Siegel, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany. (exhibition catalogue)
“Twilight: Photographs by Gregory Crewdson,” Harry N. Abrams Inc., with essay by Rick Moody, New York.
“Gregory Crewdson Early Work (1986-88),” Emilio Mazzoli Galleria D’arte Contemporanea, Modena, Italy (exhibition catalogue)
“Gregory Crewdson: Dream of Life,” text by Darcey Steinke and interview with Bradford Morrow, Ediciones Universidad De Salamanca, Spain.
ARTICLES WRITTEN BY ARTIST:
“Aesthetics of Alienation,” TATE ECT., Issue 1, Volume 1, Summer, pp. 42-47
Yale University, New Haven, CT
Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
Cooper Union, New York
SUNY Purchase, Purchase, NY
Sarah Lawrence College, Bronxville, NY
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, New York
The Broad Family Foundation, Santa Monica, CA
The Malba-Collection, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The American Contemporary Art from Misumi Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
John D. and Catherine T. Macarthur Foundation, Chicago
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ
Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia
Bio text at ROGallery
This is a brief listing of Crewdson’s ‘Artworld’ interactions. An extensive biography/CV is available here
You should be able to gain from this a good sense of how embedded Crewdson is as an influence and acknowledged presence in the world of contemporary photographic practice.
- Influenced by photographers such as Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Walker Evans, Eggleston and Friedlander
- Influenced by painters such as Edward Hopper
- Influenced by film makers such as David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock
Subjective / The Artist
- Works with recurring visual and psychological motifs (isolation, fear, anxiety, frame within frame etc)
- Returns to the same mid west towns to scout locations
- Crewdson’s images are, in part, about what lurks in his interior world
- His photographic practice satisfies a need to be able to tell a story or and for images to convey a narrative
- Is interested in seeking out the uncanny, mysterious or terrible aspects of life in an image
- Shoots primarily in the twilight hours to capture a particular quality of light
- Is involved in the construction of an American mythology
- Responds to artists who have reinvented the iconography of the American landscape.
Subjective / The Audience
- May find the images confronting (beauty and a sadness, doubled with an underlying sense of anxiety or alienation)
- May have difficulty decoding the narrative of the image
- Will essentially bring their own reading to the photograph despite the photographers intention
- Outside of America international audiences will primarily encounter images in publications, documentaries or online
- Brings a sense of menace to the American dream
- The audience may not be aware of the extent to which the images are ‘staged’
“The suburban landscape is alien and strange and exotic. I photograph it out of longing and desire. My photographs are also about repression and internal angst”
“What I’m after, what I’ve always been after is a picture that tells a story. I see it all in my head beforehand, and I set out obsessively—maybe even narcissistically—to make it. Very little is improvised in the end, though I am open to serendipity in some details. In part I see what I am doing as exploring the American psyche through the American vernacular landscape, much as Hopper did”.
“The reason I teach is because it’s a privileged atmosphere, where you can talk about photographs in a place where the people really care about them. That’s rare and unusual”
“…….the photograph is still and frozen. From day one, I have been interested in taking that limitation and trying to find the strength in it—like a story that is forever frozen in between moments, before and after, and always left as a kind of unresolved question”
“Every artist has a central story to tell, and the difficulty, the impossible task, is trying to present that story in pictures”
“All my pictures are very voyeuristic, but ultimately I’m looking at what lurks in my own interior. I make photographs because I want to answer the question of what propels me to do the things that I do. But that always remains a mystery”
“Originally, one of the reasons I was drawn to photography, as opposed to painting or sculpture or installation, is that of all the arts it is the most democratic, in so far as it’s instantly readable and accessible to our culture. Photography is how we move information back and forth”.
“I think my pictures are really about a kind of tension between my need to make a perfect picture and the impossibility of doing so. Something always fails, there’s always a problem, and photography fails in a certain sense… This is what drives you to the next picture”
“My pictures are about everyday life combined with theatrical effect. I want them to feel outside of time, to take something routine and make it irrational. I’m always looking for a small moment that is a revelation”
“When pressed, he puts the voyeuristic element of his work down to a formative period in his childhood. His father, a Freudian psychoanalyst, used to receive patients in the basement of their Brooklyn brownstone. “What he was doing underneath the living-room floor was forbidden and mysterious. Why were these strange people coming to the basement door of the house? In one way or another, I was formed by this idea of secrets beneath the surface of things. As a photographer, I’m always trying to project unknown and mysterious images onto ordinary landscapes.”
“Given the cinematic nature of his pictures, why didn’t Crewdson just become a movie director? “I took my first photography class because I had a crush on a girl in college who was a photographer,” he says. “There has always been discussion about me making a movie. But in the end, I am a photographer. I think exclusively in terms of still images. I’m completely invested in that one moment – I’m not interested in what happens before or after. I just figure out how to make images as beautiful as possible.”
“But is there an overarching narrative to Beneath the Roses? “The pictures are not meant to be that specific,” he says. “They come out of the same world or landscape, but there’s no literal narrative that ties it all together. If there’s a common theme, it’s that the pictures share a beauty and a sadness, doubled with an underlying sense of anxiety or alienation. In the end, they are very quiet photographs. Even though the production was large and complicated, the tone of the photographs is almost naturalistic. It’s a paradox.” @ Dark Secrets – The Telegraph
“….Exploring the American psyche through the American vernacular landscape…”
“……in so far as it’s instantly readable and accessible to our culture. Photography is how we move information back and forth”.
“I’m interested in using the iconography of nature and the American landscape as surrogates or metaphors for psychological anxiety, fear or desire”
Draws inspiration from the American Mid West in a way not unlike painter Edward Hopper
To a degree not relevant. Crewdson’s practice is quite traditional despite the reliance on construction, set, casting, lighting and post production personnel.
- Is reliant on crews for lighting and set construction
- Prefers to exercise control over all aspects pre and post production
- Attention to detail is paramount
- Spends a lot of time scouting locations
- Prefers not to operate the camera so that his experience of the shot is direct.
- Shoots a sequence of images and composites the best aspects.
- Images are cinematic in look and feel