Photographic Art Creation – Exclusive Interview with Gregory Crewdson
How do you make a photo that sells for over $ 100,000? Gregory Crewdson may not have the answer, and I suspect he probably doesn’t care, but that’s what his prints will steadily pick up, if not more. What enables him to create such amazingly powerful works of art, and what struggles does he endure throughout the creative process?
For those who may not be familiar with Gregory’s work, the easiest way to describe it is like a perfect, beautiful motion picture, a single frame that doesn’t provide any context for the narrative of what’s going on, but instead leaves to the viewer the choice of what happens. a and takes place in front of them. Shooting in large format, everything is largely on point and critically, everything in the frame is absolutely there for a reason. The composition of the subject, and what is excluded, is a finely tuned mechanism, as each image is something that lives in Gregory’s head. The final photograph is his way of trying to recreate what he sees in his mind.
Gregory’s work and approach was showcased in the compelling 2012 documentary, Brief Encounters, which largely focused on the creative process around his recent work, Beneath the Roses, images of which are featured in this article.
His work is absolutely unique his vision and his style. The cinematic lighting, great detailed and open narrative “moments”, are instantly recognizable as a “Crewdson”.
Gregory will make a one-off appearance on October 15 in Los Angeles at the upcoming Stand Out Photographic Forum, where he will talk about his relentless motivation as an artist, where his vision comes from and where it is leading it. Those who wish to attend can use the code FSTOPPERS to attend the conferences for free.
This interview was very focused on his growth and development, his influences and tried to explore the reasons why he is attracted to certain places or concepts. As we all try to develop our own eye, vision, and style, I think there is a lot that we can all take away from him, as he struggles to achieve his own visions.
Let’s stopper: Where do you think the photographic style you come from?
Gregory: I feel like I’m in tune with a particular tradition of American art that finds a link between ordinary life and theatricality. The artists of this tradition who have greatly influenced me are, among others, Edward Hopper, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and Raymond Carver. All of them, in their own way, soak up the iconography of American life and reinvent it like theirs.
Caps: You mentioned that it is more important for you to allow the viewer to project their own narrative on your work. Why do you think this is more important than anchoring a distinct message or context in the photograph?
Gregory: For me, the overall ambiguity of the narrative in my work is less of a conscious nod to the viewer and more of a trait inherent in how it exists in my mind. I experience the images as a singular and fixed moment in time both in my imagination and in the image itself. It is therefore inevitable that the images are surrounded on all sides by ambiguity. There is no before, no after; and I offer no motivation or resolution.
Caps: When you are scouting and looking for a place that will hold the scene, what determines that you have found the right place?
Gregory: This is a really difficult question to answer – it is almost inarticulable to me. I do a lot of my location spotting by driving around and around the same places. I go out and walk, often over and over again in the same landscapes. Something clicks at some point. What precipitates this moment of clarity is somewhat of a mystery to me – although I would say that in a way, the place must feel both familiar and strange, and exist outside of time. Once I find it, however, it then becomes fixed in my mind. The other pieces of the painting begin to reveal themselves to me. The next step is to develop the description of the image and pull something that is sometimes very abstract and vague in my mind in real terms that my team can work from.
Caps: What about the small American town, staging of everyday life with subjects and a scenario that evoke something else, so captivating?
Gregory: It’s something that I guess speaks from my own experience of life and the American cultural landscape in general. I’m not purposely looking for something dark or gloomy or out of touch, in fact it’s not something I’m even aware of in the work I do. I always try to create beauty, to reveal hope, to show the sense of longing that exists in isolation and loneliness, and to capture the search for something greater inside of all of my topics.
Caps: Your images combine elements of exceptional detail that you have distinct control over. Can you describe why it is so important to get the details, but leave the message or context open?
Gregory: For me, the memorable and powerful moments in life that we take with us, remember and relive are not necessarily the greatest, but often the quietest. These moments occur, frequently, in ordinary domestic settings, and the small details of those settings – the personal effects and the particular clutter and debris that inhabit them are important. The way the light is at that time is important. Visual focus is important. All of these things weigh on the emotional impact of this moment. It seems to me necessary and absolutely crucial to at least try to understand all these details.
Caps: In Brief Encounters, you talk about a time when you were in a time of crisis or transition, when you couldn’t take the photographs that you had taken before. How do you deal with these moments of transition and turn them into positive ones to move you forward?
Gregory: For me, each work has its own set of particular and fascinating obsessions that have motivated it, both thematically and visually. Between almost everyone, there was a kind of artistic crisis which is then resolved through work. It is difficult to generalize this, because each time the circumstances have been very different. It’s the way I evolve in my life as an artist and what drives me to keep creating new works. The basic act of creating an image is terrifying, but there is no choice.
Caps: Where do you get your inspiration to create your images? I know you specifically mentioned the importance of Blue Velvet, Edward Hopper, and Orson Welles.
Gregory: The artists you mentioned have had a lot of impact on me, and continue to be. My inspiration comes from a lot of places, however. I watch movies all the time, old and new. I listen to podcasts while sleeping and while awake. I am in pop culture. I find inspiration in my own life and experiences. But I work on most of the photo ideas while doing open water swims, which I do religiously every day – when it’s hot enough at least. During the cold months, I cross-country ski, run, and swim in pools. The repetitive and meditative nature of these activities transports me to a sort of mental space in which my ideas can be processed, begin to take shape and make sense.
Let’s stopper: Can you share a bit of your new work, Cathedral of the Pines, in terms of what we can expect and the motivation behind it?
Gregory: The new work is very emblematic of the previous work I did with light, color and narrative form. It’s more intimate in some ways, though, very much connected to nature and shot entirely in the town of Becket, Massachusetts, which is a place I have a deep personal connection with.
Let’s stopper: You said, “Every artist has a central story to tell, the struggle is to tell it and tell it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over try to challenge that story. Basically, it remains the same. As you move through your different bodies of work, do you start to get a clearer picture of what your own story might be?
Gregory: Telling this story, wrestling with it, embracing it and trying to decipher and analyze it is a journey, and each image and work pushes it a little further. The story is never quite clear to me; however, and this is what compels me to keep fighting to say it.
Caps: What do you hope other photographers and creatives will take away from your intervention at the Stand Out Photographic Forum?
Gregory: Photography is a technical medium, and that’s part of the problem. The struggle of being a photographer is trying to find a way to get around the limits and constraints of something very technical and to convey what is in us. I hope my speech will convey it.
Special thanks to Gregory and his team and to the Gagosian Gallery for their permission to use the images in this article.
If you’re in LA next week on October 15th, you can hear Gregory speak for free at the Photographic forum stand out (use code FSTOPPERS)