Gregory Crewdson is an internationally exhibited artist whose work has recently been shown in New York, Los Angeles, Germany, London, France and Tokyo. His photographs are also the subject of the book Twilight. He teaches at Yale University School of Art in the Department of Photography and lives in the USA. Russell Banks is an award winning writer. His works of fiction include Affliction, The Sweet Hereafter, Rule of the Bone and others. He has also contributed poems, stories and essays to various publications and magazines including Vanity Fair and Esquire. He lives in the USA.
The first thing Russell Banks mentions in the book's introduction is the comparison between Crewdson's work and Hollywood. Not surprising of course because the photos are produced like the movies only here it's one shot at a time. Looking at the fascinating production photos at the back of the book I'm reminded of Winston Link, another photographer who went to endless trouble for the one shot and mostly in small town America, too.
Crewdson provides you with forty-nine content rich photos, you have to provide everything else and that is not difficult because the people and situations before your eyes pull you into their lives. What is she thinking, is she speaking to him, what is he doing, why are they together? I thought the small town setting ideal for these tableaux, the streets, houses and people seem to fit together and allow the viewer to focus on the characters. Maybe the plates should have been loose in a box making it easier for the viewer to create an ever changing scenario according to their sequence.
I was rather disappointed though with part of the book's production. The photos, thankfully suitable larger than those in 'Twilight', are only printed in 175dpi. These images are saturated with detail and texture and I would have thought a minimum of 200 or preferably 250dpi would be necessary to bring out their quality. So many of them have a long depth of field but also feature some small detail or frozen action that is important: a person in a car; the items on a bedside table or people seen through the window of a motel room.
Like 'Twilight' the back of this book has chapters on Location and Soundstage, both have production shots (unfortunately not captioned) and drawings to show the amazing amount of work that goes into these photos. A look at the Production Credits also confirms this (and reinforces the movie connection) with Lighting, Best Boys, Gaffers, Key Grip, Special Effects, Prop Masters, Wardrobe, Transportation, Hair and Make-up, Casting, Catering, Legal and more. Oh yes, let's not forget Swamp Design by Buzz Gray, too.
Overall a remarkable book but if you are new to his work have a look at Gregory Crewdson which includes twenty plates from 'Beneath the Roses'.
***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
One of Crewdson's best books2008/4/1
There are several books that contain Crewdson's cinematic photography, and I think that most people would agree that this one is the best so far.
In his other books, people have complained that the images were not large enough. This book has larger images. The book contains 49 plates, which measure about 14.5" x 9.5"
The book also has photographs and sketches of a lot of the work that went into the final photographs, such as set design, lighting, props, and more.
Some of the photos in this book are also in the book "1985-2005", but they are larger in this book.
The book still doesn't come close to capturing how breathtaking his full-size 4' x 5' photographs are, but it does a better job than any of his other books. It would make a great addition to any photography book collection.
Some Amazing Exterior Work2008/4/23
In his opening essay of this volume of photographs, Russell Banks describes the cinematic qualities of Crewdson's work; in particular, how "the pictures are assembled and staged." Though not necessarily immediately obvious in all of the individual pictures, after looking for awhile the viewer does begin to recognize the artificiality of the moments. This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. In many cases, particularly when the setting is an exterior, it works very well. The eye searches out the odd detail in the landscape. In the interiors, however, it seems to work less well. In these, the overall effect seems to be oddity and garishness.
More interesting is the theme of isolation that runs through these photos. Even in the shots where more than one person is present, each seems trapped inside their own space. Raised to an even higher degree in some of the wide exteriors, you end up searching out the individual who is nearly swallowed up by the rest of the picture. Perhaps it is that very searching quality required by some of the photographs that makes them the most moving of the group.
When I first received this book, I wasn't sure if I would like it. I was first put off by the unwieldiness of its size--bigger than a normal volume and wider than it is high. As I looked through the photographs and grew to like many of them, I realized the importance of the book's size and shape--to take advantage of the movie aspect ratio Crewdson uses as well as the need for as much space as possible in his wide, detailed exterior shots.
In fact, I went to see a gallery presentation of some of the photographs in this volume. The prints hanging on the wall were large, perhaps six feet or more wide, which I thought did much better justice to Crewdson's work. I found this experience to be of great benefit. When I came home and looked through the book again, I was moved to look even more closely at some of the pictures, seeking out that isolation and detail.
Still, as I said, I think Crewdson's work is uneven. The exteriors, for the most part, greatly outdo the interiors and there is a tendency towards a garishness I don't like in some of his work. However, when he hits the right notes, his landscapes are as beautiful and interesting as anything I've seen.
Less real than life, and more real than dreams2014/7/4
I first heard of Crewdson on an episode of "Six Feet Under." A character referred to another character's photography as "like Gregory Crewdson, only not as good."
The character's work as depicted on the show was nothing like Crewdson, whose style is utterly unique. The preface to "Beneath the Roses" describes it as cinematic, both in form and execution; the shots take days to set up, requiring large crews and actors to achieve the chosen effect. The collection concludes with production stills and a long list of "credits," not unlike those at the end of a movie.
Someone unfamiliar with Crewdson's chosen medium, coming across these pictures for the first time, might very well assume they are paintings and not photographs at all. The color palette falls into that uncanny valley of being close to reality, but just off enough to create disquiet. There is no blurring of background or foreground - like a painting, everything is in sharp focus. One of Crewdson's influences is Edward Hopper, and it shows in the impressionistic, balanced, and generally large-scale scenes - there are no closeups. But Hopper's sensibility, compared to Crewdson, seems tame, somehow safer.
Crewdson's photographs are full of details, evoking a sense of sadness, of disappointment, of the everyday pain that people cause those closest to them. His subjects seem resigned to desperation, yet forever on the verge of an escape they will never accomplish. Car doors are often open, but not to welcome someone arriving; more a sign that someone has just left, running off without closing it. That is, going from one phase of their life to another suddenly, without "closing the door" - a sudden, unplanned-for flight that surely must end with their return. For interior shots, mirrors are often present, with other rooms - usually a restroom, often with toilet - seen through half-opened doorways. Sometimes, the scene is of strange destruction that the human figures seem oblivious to, as if they are used to it.
All of this is presented with the greatest restraint and maturity. Even one scene in which a man kneels before another man in a dark forest, almost as if he is a prisoner, while other figures wander around with flashlights, does not suggest that violence (at least physical violence) is involved. Another, where a young boy confronts a naked woman standing in the doorway of her trailer, seems more of a chance meeting than anything else. In this collection, Crewdson brings the viewer into a world both strange and familiar, like memories of childhood - significant moments that had the greatest impact on us, even as we are barely able to recall them.
I had seen the french edition of that book, but couldn't afford it at $100,00. The good surprise was to find it cheaper, even with postage to Europe included. The landscape format allows the reader to see all the tiny details in Crewdson's pictures. One small problem: 2 of the pages were missing and replaced by another (preceeding page). That may not be the case with other copies...