Is it a case of style over substance in cinematic photography?

From the series Beneath the Roses by Gregory Crewdson.

Gregory Crewdson is pretty much a celebrity in our little world.  They’ve even made a film about him.  The problem for me is that among all this hype I can’t see the wood for the trees.  The film trailer is all about the lights, the process, the director (rather than the photographer)… and while I appreciate the effort he goes to and the passion he has, I struggle to find much about the content, about the actual pictures.  Even Crewdson himself, in an interview in Aperture 190, is vague on the details, saying that there was a narrative for sure but it’s all about “location, location, location, location.”  I’m never one to shirk ambiguity, in fact I love it more than most, but it still seems to me that there is a fine line between ambiguity and lack of clarity.

Contrary to popular belief, ambiguity is the ability to create multiple meanings out of a single text (the text being the image in photography terms).  Ambiguity is not vagueness, with lack of meaning or context.  With ambiguity there are many possible interpretations and the piece ‘speaks’ as opposed to vagueness where the image dissolves away, becoming voiceless.

I’m not saying Crewdson’s images are dead.  I can see the Edward Hopper references and the psychological dramas and I can certainly see the visual allure but what I don’t see are writers, or even the photographer himself, defending the content of the work.

Michael Fried in his book Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before calls for writers to go deeper into contemporary photography.  I think it is a pertinent rallying cry.  To be concerned with what the photographs are saying rather than how they were made makes for a much more interesting dialogue yet so often the sensation surrounding ‘film sets’ seems to get all the critics talking.

So what was Crewdson’s motivation behind this intensive process?  He says his work is all about the blending of fact and fiction but I find it hard to see much of real life in his images.  It seems to me his work is actually about fantasy and fiction, but that’s another matter.  Who has seen a fully naked, pregnant woman standing in the middle of the street at the perfectly lit twilight?  No?  Me neither.

So my question for you today is:

Does it matter what the photographer’s intention is in creating meaningful photographic art?



  1. Siegfried Ip 17 December 2012 at 11:47 am

    I am struggling with the notion of “meaningful photographic art”. There probably were countless debate on this within OCA that I have missed, but what and who defines “meaningful”?

    I do agree that Crewdson’s work looks like unreal, if not, surreal to me. It would be a great work for fiction books’ covers, but horrible idea for documentaries. In fact, it is very weird for me to read, in the interview link you have, Crewdson said, “I’m a believer in photography and in truth and in photography as a document”. I think I like his picture more if I don’t know what his intention is.

    On an unrelated note: The very first time when I bake cookies, I didn’t know how to use a electric blender. The mix was increasing difficult to blend by hand, so I added more water. After a while it got different to blend, so I added more water. The product came out of the oven were little pancakes. They were tasty, but no one would have ever guessed it was supposed to be cookies. Question: was I a good baker?

  2. Peter Haveland 17 December 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I think it is important to ask a question of your question, What I mean is, does it matter to whom? Does it matter to the photographer? Does it matter to the viewer? Does it matter the the theoretician/writer? I would suggest that the answers could well be different in each case.
    It seems to me that Crewdson’s work, and I mean the images not necessarily any purpose he himself might have, speaks of that society, real or imagined, that has spawned (no pun intended) the current fascination with Vampires, Zombies and the like; that world that on the one hand exudes conformity, comfort and continuity yet on the other provides fear, otherness and even excitement. The contrasting of the small town complacency of Mom and Apple pie with the surreal event and doing it in a filmic vocabulary speaks to, at least in my experience, a section of contemporary society fairly directly.
    I would suggest that his work taken as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that the methodology and technicalities are as much a part of the effect it has as the individual contents of any one or even all of the images. They comment upon the way contemporary society views itself both physically and metaphorically. I would suggest that the ideas of the Society of the Spectacle have become manifest in a society that is apprehended as spectacle and spectacular. Reality has become indistinguishable from and interchangeable with fantasy, indeed the term ‘reality’ may well have become so devalued as to be redundant as in Reality TV which has little to do with reality in any way we heretofore understood it and doesn’t even mean live any more.
    Given the change in the role of the author over the last century or so and the growth in the autonomy of the reader (Barthes, Foucault et al) I am not at all sure that the intentions of the maker, Crewdson in this case, have much relevance to the apprehension of the work (I don’t like that word but ‘reading’ seems too restrictive, like using ‘text’ for images, music etc etc.)
    It seems to me that Crewdson’s colour work is saying (whether on purpose or not, I don’t really care!) is that the American dream, now so universal; the aspirations of middle America, England and probably middle everywhere; is just that, a dream, a state only to be found when unconscious or semi-conscious and non-existent in the waking world.
    By creating a fantasy world in his colour images using the paraphernalia of Hollywood and then capturing the image on film, analogue imaging supposedly having the whiff of factual representation the juxtaposition of ‘reality’ fantasy, dream and waking, aspiration and achievement is thrown, literally into sharp focus. The question it asks is, “Does putting our aspirational dream into practice only produce a fantasy?”
    In many ways this was solidified in my mind when I saw his “Sanctuary” exhibition. A series of monochrome prints of the Mussolini Hollywood just outside Rome. The images were made on a digital camera and I believe digitally printed with minimal pre or post production re-working and no film crew. The images conjured up ideas of Atget and the Solomon-Godeau’s essay “Canon Fodder: Authoring Eugene Atget” in “Photography at the Dock”. Recording a fantasy world originally created in furtherance of a political project (dream?) that exists but is disused digitally and in monochrome contrasts so much with the content, methodology, and implications of the colour work that I feel the two bodies of work are part of a growing whole that adds up to a discourse on the nature of reality and aspirational fantasy.
    Now whether Crewdson intended any of this is, frankly, immaterial to me, the work does it all!

    1. Siegfried Ip 17 December 2012 at 12:49 pm

      Peter, I have a question: will it be better if we never tell you about our intention afterall? If that pancake/cookie metaphor doesn’t do it, let’s say I want to be a classical/realistic painter but ended up in producing something total surreal — Will I be better off never tell a soul that I am trying to paint something realistic?

      I think you have answered questions along this line many times, but by the end of the day, I can’t help to think that if a “good” photographic work depends on if I can find audiences who can see some meaning out of my work, whether or not I have something to offer in the first place.

      I wonder, maybe it is true that as a photographic work itself, it has a value. However in the prepectives of being an author, produce something to communicate to the audience, if that message doesn’t come across, that is a failure of being an author even though the work is not failed (ie. achieved another objective).

      1. Peter Haveland 17 December 2012 at 1:54 pm

        There is a big difference between being a student and being an artist, that is something that mature students particularly have difficulty with, so as a tutor I need to know your intentions, or at the very least to know that you are seeking your intentions yourself.
        The tutor/student relationship requires the interrogation of intentions, purposes, aspirations and so on and requires this in a different way even from the interest I have in these things as an art theorist.
        In my role as an audience knowing these things may have little or no relevance to the relationship I have with the work.

        I think that answer to Sharon’s very good question depend on who or what one is talking about.

        I was tempted to initially think, “of course it does, but does it matter whether I know what they were or not?” However Sharon’s thoughtful piece deserves more than that.

        In many ways it seems to me that each work we make as fine artists is questioning our intentions and motivations. However as fine artists we are on a voyage of exploration, asking questions, rather than taking a didactic stance and trying to provide answers.

        (Please note that I am using the term ‘fine art’ rather than just ‘art’ as the latter can (should in my opinion) include the design disciplines whose proper role is to try to provide answers. I would suggest that fine artists are explorers and designers are problem solvers. There is a whole essay there but I mean to show difference not to make a value judgement.)

        Therefore it is important to the work that the artist’s intentions are at least interrogated by the artist if not known by them and so too in fine art by photographic means.

        I don’t think that finding an audience has anything to do with whether an image is ‘good’ or not. There are myriad examples of works that have a very big audience that are no good at all and vice versa.

        I think this idea of the maker (as a fine artist) communicating something to the audience is at least out dated if not totally mythical. It is the result of the maker, the work itself, that communicates to the audience and that is not necessarily in any way connected to the communication between the maker and that work. Indeed to ascribe authorship in the traditional sense to a work is to restrict its potential. The chances are that the sincerity, integrity and commitment of the maker communicate themselves to the audience but not some sort of direct communication of ‘meaning’ from maker to audience. In other words I think your final sentence is entirely wrong today. To help you see why I say this read, if you haven’t done so already, Barthes’ essay “The Death of the Author” in “Image Music Text”

        1. Dewald 24 December 2012 at 12:19 pm

          “… I think this idea of the maker (as a fine artist) communicating something to the audience is at least out dated if not totally mythical. It is the result of the maker, the work itself, that communicates to the audience and that is not necessarily in any way connected to the communication between the maker and that work…” (Peter H)

          Peter, or anyone really… I’ve been following this discussion with extreme interest, since I’ve used Crewdson’s work in some resent study material as reference point. Whether I like his work or not, is not what is of interest here to me, but much rather something you posted above.

          The problem is that I have failed to make up my own mind whether I agree or disagree with you, but I did come to the conclusion that your statement questions (quite strongly actually) possibly one part of the problem I have with my own work at the moment.

          I’m very honest that I was seriously taken aback when I read that you mentioned ‘the maker () communicating something () is at least out dated if not totally mythical’… if this is true, then I had to question pretty much all my recent work, and reconsider it’s worth / value, not only as what I aim to create as art, but my relationship with it.

          It is further very interesting that you (if I understand correctly, mind) separate the work from the creator. Which brings to mind Jose’s post some time ago, his reaction to the article about removing the ‘I’ from art, and that made me wonder where I stand in this, and where other artists like Crewdson, Strand, Kenna, Wei, stand, in relation to their work.

          I guess to me it’s vague (?) how it is possible for the photographer (as fine artist) to not communicate as person through the creation process, and in doing so, create a piece that would be able to elicit / communicate with the audience….

          Or have you simply separated the piece / work as the OBJECT that would elicit / communicate to the audience, since the creator is and can not physically be there to communicate, that the creation process is of lesser importance in the ability of the object itself, to communicate to the viewer, since (many) viewers are not shown / told / aware of the creation process, unless told?

          Pardon if I totally misunderstood your comment…

  3. Sharon 17 December 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for these interesting responses.

    (Just to note that I am addressing the question to you, otherwise the answers would be hypothetical. You, whoever is reading this.)

    I (answering as a photographer, tutor and writer) appreciate what you are saying, Peter, in that the work has to speak rather than the creator (if I am right in summarising you in this much brevity!), but for me these are one and the same thing. If an artist cannot bring forward their intention in their work then I believe they have failed. Now whether history or the canon chooses to agree with me only time can tell. I do not think every celebrated artist has been eloquent through their work, so therefore fame and recognition is not even a good measure.

    Regarding the work and the artist doing the talking together, the tools used and the techniques employed should be there by deliberation. As we are so often going on about in level 1 – knowing your techniques helps you be more fluent. I would argue that in comparison to say, Phillip Lorca DiCorcia, Crewdson’s methodology fails to deliver. When I look at a Crewdson I am drawn in, I won’t pretend, but I am quickly left bored. When I look at a DiCorcia I am drawn in and my attention is held by the detailing, the reality of it, the concepts so well constructed and explained that my mind is set off in a myriad of directions. With Crewdson it is shut down. (I am very willing to admit the whole vampire thing is also lost on me so that could be purely down to taste!)

    That being said I do believe a piece of art can carry connotations and interesting meanings unintended from the artist behind it, which makes life more interesting and the fabric that Barthes is referring to in the ‘text’ becomes all the more richer as a result, (hence his reasoning for pointing to the Death of the Author). However I think we are currently experiencing the death of the death of the author. And I think this is because people are sick of charlatans using it as an excuse not to be on top of their game and getting away with making work that LOOKS revolutionary but actually is empty in the hope that some clever critic will breathe some life into it. Also we are now in 2012, nearly 13, Barthes was writing in the 70’s. What have we moved on to? I’m almost hoping for the conceptualists to come back into power.

    I like what you say about exploration, I think asking questions is the most important aspect of being an artist. What I think is important is to look at an artist’s career and see the messages that emerge over time, then we can see what comes from that artist. I think this is the most sure sign of a talent, that what consistently comes from that person is challenged, enhanced and interrogated and stands the test of time.

  4. Peter Haveland 17 December 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I rather distrust this death of the death of the author thing, there are better ways of exposing charlatans than by re-chaining the image to the dictates of an author. For me the recognising of the liberation of the ‘text’ and the freeing of the ‘reader’ was one of the more lasting insights of Post-structuralism and a logical extension of the democratising ideas from Modernism and writers like Benjamin et al. Like you I don’t get the vampire/zombie thing though I can understand the theoretical basis for the interest amongst the younger population brought up in Neo-liberalism and Postmodernism.
    Interestingly my position vis a vis Crewdson and DiCorcia is just about the reverse of yours…cause and effect perhaps?
    I confess that I find Crewdson’s work of its time (sounds better than dated!) and am concerned that the success of the filmic work might cause him not to move on, the Sanctuary piece seemed to me to mark in interesting progression and am looking forward to where he goes from here. I have a similar worry about DiCorcia, his work, I would suggest, could end up being a sort of neo-Sander archive if it goes on too long, we wait to see.

  5. John 18 December 2012 at 10:38 am

    I’m fairly unsure of the vernacular being employed here, so any remarks I make may well be deemed naive; but never mind, nothing ventured nothing gained. It would appear to me that art may fall into two camps (a view in itself probably limitingly naive), that which is created to impress the eye and that which is engage with the viewer on perhaps a more intellectual level. Crewdson’s work here, may have the conceptual structure of leaving as much of the ‘process’ of the creation to others – as he describes in the references that Sharon kindly provides – but it is his creation ‘in the frame’ is where he is able, and keen to, append his name to the work (an acknowledged commodification?) and not the trivia that he leaves to his team . In the interviews he describes the sublime moment, lasting fifteen minutes or so, where it all comes together seems to signify to Crewdson that his work is complete, and once completed he is free to move on – twenty, maybe fifty negatives safely in the bag for post processing. And, unfettered by any memories of the past creation, he and his team are able to ‘truck-on’, to move to the next location, conveniently usually about a block away (to save on the ‘loaded cost’ and thereby improving the margins, one suspects). I suppose he doesn’t use a film set as that would be too expensive.
    It appears to me that this vacuity of intent prior to the ‘event’ and the intentional absence of any baggage of the past cluttering the artist as he absents himself from the scene of the crime, leaves me thinking more of ‘branding’ and less of temporal art. I can see the eye candy attraction – mostly, I have to say of a monetary kind – for Crewdson, the wonderful cinematic lighting etc; but as he acknowledges, there is no past or future for the image. So then, is the only value the image has, that which is created in that rapturous fifteen minutes? And the continual drive to develop the brand – which maybe the subversion of the American dream. Perhaps a visit soon in Newtown?

    1. Gareth 18 December 2012 at 12:00 pm

      The association in your final sentence was one which also struck me John. Just for the avoidance of doubt, Sharon’s piece was commissioned and written before last weeks events.

      The comparison between Crewdson and DiCorcia about which Sharon and Peter disagree is an interesting one and I wonder whether they would also disagree if the comparison was being drawn between Crewdson and Jeff Wall? The latter also produces carefully constructed tableaux which sell for immense sums, but when I look at After “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue, ‘vacuity of intent’ is not a term which springs to my mind.

  6. Catherine 18 December 2012 at 11:56 am

    I find it hard to imagine a life in which that life only makes sense for a few minutes. It’s as if he is continually searching for substance and a perfect world of his own making, but only discovers illusions. Maybe that’s the meaning.

    He keeps reminding me of Jeff Wall.

    1. Sharon 18 December 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Oh hello! Yeah, maybe that is the meaning… But I think he is glorifying it if that is the case.

      Jeff Wall is one of those artists I am thinking of who challenges their work to the max but allows for the viewer to bring un-ended readings to it.

      1. Catherine 18 December 2012 at 5:31 pm

        Isn’t that what artists can do though? I also see that he is the son of a psychoanalyst so am wondering what significance that might have in respect of his work. Also, I’ve finally remembered what else his work was reminding me of – the fim ‘American Beauty’ and the beautiful young girl amidst all those flowers.

        1. Sharon Boothroyd 19 December 2012 at 6:55 pm

          Yes I love American Beauty. And I love Jeff Wall’s work. I think both those people / pieces are doing something beyond technique.

          Yes artists can glorify things, but surely you wouldn’t want to glorify the subversion of the American Dream? Surely that’s supposed to be the point? (if it is!)

    2. Gareth 18 December 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Ah! We were composing our comments at the same time Catherine.

  7. Sharon 18 December 2012 at 11:58 am

    I don’t think the death of the death of the author so to speak has to mean that we revert back to classical notions of the author having sole ownership, that would be a shame, but rather I see a more interesting move to merge the two – where the author is challenging their work to the max but the viewer is also given the freedom to interpret and treat the image as the language it is meant to be; unfixable and unanchored.

    Thanks John, yes I can’t help but seeing big dollar signs flashing before me when I look at Crewdon’s work. Also, ANY photograph is absent of the before and after!! That’s the whole point! For me it’s photography’s ‘limitations’ that allow many creatives to push it’s boundaries more. Something, in my opinion, Crewdson fails to do, or perhaps doesn’t even attempt.

    Anyway to widen the discussion, aren’t you just a little disappointed when you come across an artist who is clueless about the debates their work is involved in?

    1. Catherine 18 December 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Well maybe he isn’t clueless but just pretending (which might fit with his persona) and/or it’s his work that’s important to him and he doesn’t care about the debates around it.

  8. Siegfried Ip 18 December 2012 at 3:07 pm

    I really enjoy the discussion here. One of the issue I have always been struggling with in the past has been answered. Peter, you pointed out earlier about fine art vs design. I think that is what I am searching for. In daily life, most of the photographs pass me by in the form of press/documentary photographs or as advertising images. Both serve a very unambiguous role: to inform, to convince. When I go to museum, gallery, I somewhat expect there is a message, and the creator is responsible to give me clue/hint to get the idea. Maybe it is why I walk out stretching my head most of the time! Now, it gives me something to think about.

    Although we only do visual art in this college, I wonder if we can look at this topic in the light of performing art. I was photographing a dance rehearsal in the summer. As the piece slowly came together, the chorographer explained to me how the varies ideas he got from the clothing in the Victorian age (the very restraining type), and how does it inspires to the varies movement in the choreography. I remember asking him if he wants the audiences to figure out those movements are originated from the Victorian clothing. He told me that it will be nice, but he neither expect or hoping the audiences to find this connection. It seems to me that some performing arts care little about the authorship. In fact, one of the key element of performing art is a skill show off. This includes the ability to sing (musical), jump and spin (dance). I feel, can we look at Crewdson’s work as performing art? Whether or not we can extract some meanings out from his work, or if he is manage to talk about his work and describes his idea or aspiration in plain English, the whole operation is quite impressive. Think about the street he has to evacuate, the police and fire department who has to standby at the set, the people involved from camera operation (funny enough, he does not call himself a photographer. I guess you can only have one), production designer, photography director, etc. This is a very big operation. Well, can photography, or the act of taking a photograph, be a performing art itself?

    I have a feeling, maybe “what does it mean/imply” is not the right question to ask when one confront with Crewdson’s work. The right question should be, “wow, how do you make this?”. I feel that there are more clues to the latter question in the interview link in Sharon’s original article.

    1. vicki 19 December 2012 at 12:35 pm

      Siegfried—I’m just thinking that if our only response to Crewdson becomes a ‘wow, how the hell did he achieve that’; then it is superficial work. because interest is lost once the technique has been explained. For it to have some value beyond that initial response, it has to draw us deeper?

      1. Siegfried Ip 19 December 2012 at 5:36 pm

        Vicki, I strggle on this subject on “deeper meaning” for a very long time. I read about dissonance reduction in Psychology text before. Apply the concept here: people unlikely to tell me that my work/idea is rubbish if they have invested a significant of time to figure/study my work. Because if they have to call my work/idea rubbish, it somehow indicates that they are idiots to spend time to read my work in the first place, which hurts their ego. For me this is very difficult concept, to think that the line between fine art and say, rubbish is just a psychological game.

        What Crewdson does is interesting to me. However, does it has to be sitting next to all the old masters? Are photographs that have no/little deeper meaning have their value?

        1. vicki 19 December 2012 at 6:00 pm

          Siegfried—understand what you are saying—because I have this conflict as well. I look at the photos I take and go yeah, got the exposure right, composition okay, lighting—does what I want it to do etc—but does that make it a ‘good’ photo—in that it encourages reaction/interaction from my audience. [Guess that also depends on who my audience is and what the subject matter is—if I’m doing snaps of baby down the road and they like it—hey ho.]

          But for myself, I keep looking back at the body of work I have produced thus far for TAOP and it leaves me cold—it has no depth other than that I have ticked the box for the assignment. I look at its contents and think ‘what was I trying to say?’; and ‘does it say what I wanted it to say’—and most times not—which is why, for me it has little value.

          For what it’s worth, I’m a fan of Crewdson—have a number of his books—but I come to them from a slightly different viewpoint—it is a more technical one.

          You mention his work as possibly being performance art—I’m not sure there because I’m on very shaky ground here—as I’m understanding it, for it to be performance art we would be watching the process and not the end product? Maybe some-one else can help me here?

  9. vicki 19 December 2012 at 12:32 pm

    Echoing Siegfried’s comment about enjoying the discussion! Just started UVC and my brain is already porridge—but as I skim read here, I’m understanding some of it and putting some of it on the back-burner—for thoughts and questioning at a later stage—when the mist in my head has cleared.

    Really thought-provoking—thanks to all who are participating—this thread is going to PDF’d for closer interrogation—when it seems to have stopped growing.

    @Peter—you said, “each work we make as fine artists is questioning our intentions and motivations. However as fine artists we are on a voyage of exploration, asking questions, rather than taking a didactic stance and trying to provide answers’. Is that akin to self-criticism? Reading Greenberg on Modernist Painting at the moment—and battling to pin down my interpretation of that term.

    1. Peter Haveland 19 December 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Vicki – It is not really.

      What I am trying to suggest is that the major difference between Fine Art and the Design disciplines lies in the approach of the artist/designer.

      The designer has a something to communicate (it might be a passage from a book, the ambitions of a company, etc) directly and their major task is to solve the problem of how to do that. On the other hand the fine artist may have a range of inspirations informing their work but they are not directly representing them in the work. I fear that I am not really making myself clear (even to myself!) but the dividing line between the two ways of working is really fine and many artists are both designers on occasions and fine artists on others and even sometimes both at the same time.

      1. Alison 20 December 2012 at 8:13 am

        I think this is a very interesting point. The difference between i) illustration of an idea which you already have and want to convey and ii) engaging in a line of enquiry which reveals things which you couldn’t even have imagined before you started!

        1. anned 20 December 2012 at 9:05 am

          I think this is why I get confused by “intention” I can’t see how it really fits in with fine art practise. I suppose in retrospect you might see what your intention was once you’ve worked it out through making the work. But at the start if you set out with a fixed intention rather than a series of questions or ideas to explore….then that seems more like design to me. So i don’t know if someone can clarify what is meant by “intention” in practise for students who already know they want to make work thats more fine art than design.

      2. vicki 20 December 2012 at 10:33 am

        Dang—back to the drawing board on that self-criticism. But Peter, I do understand—sort off—the distinctions you are making here.

      3. Peter Haveland 20 December 2012 at 11:28 am

        Ann–I tend to think of the ‘intention’, when applied to a fine art student goes something like, “I intend making x images based on the idea that empty spaces are a place of indecision and metaphor. The images will be made from a combination of paint, photographs and found materials. Initial ideas reference the work of…… and the writings of…..” etc, etc. Now, others may have different ideas to that and it would be interesting to hear what they are.

        1. anned 22 December 2012 at 6:59 pm

          Thank you for clarifying that Peter 🙂

  10. Jose 19 December 2012 at 2:05 pm

    For me the intention of the photographer and the meaning that the viewer extracts from it are like two overlapping circles. The overlapping area is where the viewer perceives, understands and shares the intention of the photographer. The areas that don’t overlap are where ambiguity (coming from the photographer or the viewer) resides.

    As for Gregory Crewdson, yes, I really like the visual quality of his work. The problem for me is that that quality is so strong that perhaps acts like an impenetrable barrier – the viewer can’t get beyond the visual. This reminds me of a quote in the book Magnum Degrees by Michael Ignatieff:

    “Photography which loses sight of documentation risks becoming mannerism, while photography which loses the ambition of art loses the possibility of becoming unforgettable.”

    I think that applies to Crewdon’s work.

    1. Siegfried Ip 19 December 2012 at 5:51 pm

      Jose, it is possible for to say more about your view on photography as a documentation?

      This thought came to me recently: While there are people ask if anyone believe what they’ve seen in a photograph is real, I can’t think of anyone would ask if people still believe what they’ve seen on TV is real. What is the fundamentally so different between still image and moving image? I feel it is more about how people have used them historically. With stills, while there tons of advertising image around, there are still large amount of people use stills to document their daily life, news, etc. With moving images, while documentries exist, it is commonly used in entertainment industry as movies, chat shows, etc. It comes to my question: what is the purpose to keep photography strongly associate with documentation purpose? Are we doing it for the sake of preserving the culture (past trend?), or it is actually better for us and the media?

  11. Keith Greenough 21 December 2012 at 9:54 am

    Whenever I see a Crewdson photograph I am too am reminded of Edward Hopper paintings. Hopper and Crewdson’s images are in a realistic cinematic style. Whilst realistic their work emanates from the imaginations of the artists (if I may call them both that). Their images incorporate isolated figures, empty streets, strong contrasts and interesting play of light within the scene. They both express emotional themes with a strong psychological impact, alluding to solitude, loneliness, alienation, regret. Why then is it that I think of Hopper as a fine artist and yet have a feeling that Crewdson’s work, as Sharon’s title implies, emphasises ‘style over substance’?

    This feeling about Crewdson’s work does not extend to Sanctuary which I view more as documentary, albeit documentary which references a fantasy world from another era.

  12. Brian 1 January 2013 at 9:30 pm

    I strongly identify with Crewdson’s work as dreams that could have emanated from my own subconscious. At this point I can’t explore the psychology behind them but they directly connect with something in me that I’m relieved to classify as “art” rather than something out of DSM-5. With other photographers I’m sometimes frustrated when they don’t explain themselves but with Crewdson I doubt that he can explain himself. Perhaps he’s a photographic “rain man”.


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