Watch the linked video about Gregory Crewdson and his work, and consider the following questions.
Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
I believe Crewdson’s images go far beyond aesthetic beauty. They appear more in line with stills from a movie than photographs. Interestingly, the images are produced with a large crew and actors much like a movie production. Crewdson’s images depict “an imagined suburban landscape that is both commonplace and strange” (Badger 2007, p.35). The viewer gets the sense that some kind of event has just happened or is about to happen. Crewdson’s scenes pivot on an interruption (Punctum) which forces the viewer to question what is actually happening in the narrative.
Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’?
The characters in Crewden’s work often appear frozen in thought, or some suspended mental state. In his image, Untitled (Ophelia) 2001, “a woman seems to float on water that has mysteriously filled her living-room. The subject, drawn from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a sensitive young woman who becomes mentally unbalanced and drowns herself” (Warner Marien 2011 p.459). Placing his character in these dazed or fixed states, Crewdson places the viewer in a position of discomfort and unease, and so successfully rendering his work psychological.
What does this mean?
Crewdson states that while his goal is to make a beautiful picture, he want the image to be more than just an “aesthetic experience” (Crewdson). The beauty needs to be complimented by an “undercurrent of something psychological or dangerous, or something desirous or fearful” (Crewdson). While his images carry some form of narrative, I don’t believe there’s any specific message or meaning. Gerry Badger describes how the Hollywood scale shoot, and post-production merging of negatives, render Crewdson’s work, “a perfect photograph for the Photoshop age, a photo-fiction that has all the right cultural references and does not pretend to be anything other than a photo-fiction” (Badger 2007 p.220). Perhaps Crewdson’s images are simply, entertainment, like a good novel or a television drama with “creepy scenes of American suburbia – Desperate Housewives on Prozac or crack cocaine” (Badger 2007 p.217).
What is your main goal when making pictures?
Before studying photography with the Open College of the Arts, beauty or at least an aesthetically pleasing image was my primary goal. While I haven’t completely dropped a desire for an aesthetically pleasing image, it is no longer my first intention. As I’m exposed to more and more photography, particularly contemporary photography, I’ve discovered that my idea of aesthetic beauty, or rather what I find aesthetically pleasing seems to be ever changing. In other words, I now appreciate work I at one time would have walked past and disregarded. This course is steering me in a direction where I now see photography as a means of communication, rather than just a medium for creating beauty.
Do you think there is anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why?
There’s no right or wrong here. I believe people should make work that interests them, whether it has a message or meaning, or is beautiful or not.
Artsy (2016) Gregory Crewdson [online], available: https://www.artsy.net/artist/gregory-crewdson/works [accessed 13 Jun 2016].
Badger, G. (2007) The Genius of Photography: How photography has changed our lives, London: Quadrille.
Cotton, C. (2009) the photograph as contemporary art, new ed. London: Thames & Hudson.
Reserve Channel (2012) ‘Gregory Crewdson’s Photography Capturing a Movie Frame’, Art in Progress , available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34 [accessed 13 Jun 2016].
Warner Marien, M. (2010) Photography: A Cultural History, 3rd ed., London: Laurence King.