Gregory Crewdson

accessed 30.10.2019

Research point

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online.
Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the
questions below. [accessed 24/02/14]

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
  • Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
  • What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

Crewdson’s work is deliberately cinematic in style and as a result is often very popular in
commercial settings. The dark nights, the heavy lights and the perfectly styled locations
and actors aren’t meant to fool us into believing those moments are real, but rather they
seduce us into entering the world of fiction. This visual strategy of elaborate direction,
as in film, makes us lose our sense of reality and become absorbed with the alternative
reality we’re faced with. Some commentators regard this is an effective method of
image-making, but for others it lacks the subtlety and nuance of Wall and DiCorcia’s
work. What do you think?

A lot of Crewdson’s images are created a twilight, which he says he has always had a fascination of that time of day. It seems that it kind of represents the subject matter too. His images are on the cusp of reality and surrealism, I think that’s what makes a them ‘psychological’. We know that what we looking at isn’t real, but it’s close enough for us to question it. The half light also adds to that eerie feeling.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with making your main goal about beauty if that’s what you want. My tutor said to me after one of my assignments, that I should consider how I want to display my work as part of the planning. So if your goal is to make a piece of art that decorates a room, then mere beauty may be all you need. Besides not all real life is dark and miserable, it’s good to depict the beautiful things around us, why can’t an image be both ‘real’ and beautiful. I personally don’t find Crewdson’s images ‘beautiful’, but I do like the surrealism of them and it’s something I often create in my own images, by adding things that aren’t really there:

Assignment 4 – Research

some of the blogs I have read whilst researching for this assignment:

MB: Ah, well NYC has a lot more important things to worry about than me taking pictures. I was born and raised in NYC. It is where I am most comfortable.

Muse / Vision Board

Muse boards are something writers use to help them focus on what’s important in their story. They can keep looking at it to help them keep on track.

I think this would be a great idea for my assignments, a way of bringing together my ideas in a more visual way than a mindmap for notes spread throughout my notebook.

10 REASONS TO CREATE A MUSE BOARD gives a good description of what a muse / mood / vision board can do and how to create one.

link to my Pinterest Muse Board

started my Muse Board, sitting right above my computer screen


Whilst researching for Assignment 4, I came across some feedback from another student’s tutor, which advised that he PEEL it when writing his essay.

PEEL acronym

This is great advice for constructing a paragraph, which I am definitely going to use.

Quotes about shoes

I want to include a quote about shoes in my instagram feed, here’s a few I’ve found

Big journeys begin with small steps

Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world

Marilyn Monroe

If the shoe fits . . . .

I still have my feet on the ground, I just wear better shoes

Oprah Winfrey

So many shoes, but only two feet!

Mama always said you could tell an awful lot about a person by the kind of shoes they wear

Forest Gump

Take a walk in my shoes before you judge me

A woman carries her clothes, but it’s a shoe that carries a woman

Christian Louboutin

Cinderella is proof that a new pair of shoes can change your life

I once cried because I had no shoes to play soccer, but one day, I met a man who had no feet, and realised how rich I am

Zinedine Zidane

Assignment 3 – Self Portrait – ideas and research

Self portrait mind map of Part 3 – putting yourself in the picture

Having read through Part 3 – Putting yourself in the picture and researching the artists suggested and more, I have come to the conclusion that, I certainly don’t want to be naked in any images!, I don’t really have anything to bang a drum about and therefore, I am pretty sure my assignment will be self-absented set.

I would also like to explore the theme of substitution which was a question that came out of my last assignment, where I substituted a wooden hand for a real one.

I would also like to link this work to instagram. It seems that everyone uploads images of themselves (selfies} to instagram these days, coupled with a description of where they are, what they are doing. This is coupled with #lotsoflinks, #funnyquotes, #likegrabbingheadlines. Getting likes is all that matters!!

This is a screen shot of my current instagram account as seen on my iphone. Most people see a grid of 3 x 3 or 3 x 4 images at a time, so I will aim for 12 photos to complete this set.

I tend to use my account to show images I’ve taken, either for clients or for myself. Occasionally I add photos of me and my grandchildren, but try very hard not to post ‘crap’ to it, as I want to showcase myself as an artist (is there even such a thing!!)

I have been keeping my diary now for 8 days. I HAVE filled it in every day. This a major achievement for me. I am using a planning diary, rather than a regular journal. This seems to suit me better and I’ve found that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, stickers! they break up the writing and I find the small snippets much more interesting that lots of prose. It is enough to trigger the memories.

It’s a note for learning here too. I really struggle to concentrate with pages and pages of prose. I have to read reports for work, and I always have to get a cup of tea and often get up and go for a walk, so I can re-concentrate several times during the course of reading them. I prefer short bursts of text interspersed with images or graphics. Conversely though, I’m pretty good at writing reports!

My subject for the assignment:

I considered picking up the work I tried out after reading Francesca Woodman’s work, which was exploring the idea of using long exposure to be in a space and then not, but decided it was a bit boring and it’s essentially one photographic technique done in a few different ways. I have decided to complete my initial thoughts of self-absented self-portraiture based on substitution. I am going to tell viewers about myself by using my SHOES.

Assignment 2 – Contextualise your work with historical and contemporary practitioners:

Notes made during researching for assignment 2

At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen – Shawn Michelle Smith

Walter Benjamin’s concept of the optical unconscious

Roland Barthes’s famous Winter Garden photograph

Having lost his mother, with whom he had lived most of his life, he goes looking for her among old photographs; time and again the face he finds is not quite hers, even if objectively she looks like herself. At last, he discovers her true likeness, the “air” that he remembers, in a picture of Henriette aged five, taken in a winter garden in 1898. (In the journal entry that recounts this discovery, Barthes simply notes: “Je pleure.”) In narrative terms, it’s an astonishing moment, comparable to the onrush of memories as madeleine meets teacup in Proust, or the scene in Citizen Kane when the maddened Kane first grasps the snow globe, emblem of all he has left behind. Barthes, however, is a temperamentally discreet narrator, so never shows us the photograph: “It exists only for me. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture.”

“Camera Lucida is a short book, but with the winter garden photograph it begins all over again. Suddenly every photograph is for Barthes a memorial; the very essence of the medium is its spectral conjuring of death-in-life. Contemplating a portrait by Alexander Gardner of the condemned Lewis Payne – sentenced to death for the attempted murder of US Secretary of State WH Seward in 1865 – Barthes sees only this fearful temporal paradox: “He is dead and he is going to die.” And his book starts to sound weirdly premonitory: here is Barthes surrounded by his glum little icons, fantasising his own “total, undialectical death”.

Photography and Optical Unconcious – Shawn Michelle Smith and Sharon Sliwinski

In this article, I believe the author is saying that ‘optical unconcious’ is a viewer’s unconcious reaction to stimuli in an image that is unseen to them. Thereby, a shape or a colour or even the way someone smiles could trigger a reaction that other would not register, i.e. the unintended consequence of the image?

Reading and Links

I came across this article when researching Robert Frank’s Americans

Robert Frank – The American –

Experimental Relationship

Postmodernism / Modernism

Assignment 2 – Photographing the Unseen – Item 2

Item 2 – Ralph’s object

Using the same methodology as for Item 1, I was blindfolded and given the item to hold for 5 mins, and recorded my comments. As previously, I have not yet seen the actual item. These will be viewed once all images are complete.

This item although small like the previous item it immediately felt very different. It felt like it was metal, there were two long protrusions and a couple of shorter ones, there was a groove down the middle and I could feel an ‘S’ shape. I really couldn’t make out which way up the object was supposed to go or what it was.

Sound File can be heard here

Notes made after touching / feeling the object

I thought about the kind of image I wanted to make from this item, but struggled to come up with any solid thoughts, I felt very confused and intrigued, but also that the object had some symmetry about it and it was definitely metal.

At first I was going to try and incorporate the hand again, but it just didn’t fit into the ideas I had. I also considered a slide, which I thought would give me the metal groove I was wanting. But eventually, I wanted to capture the confusion and lack of clarity that I had. The idea of a kaleidoscope came into my head so I looked up how to make a kaleidoscope in photoshop.

I found this tutorial on the internet: How to create a Kaleidoscope – then needed to take an image to use to create my image. I found a metal colander which had the inside curves I was looking for. I also liked the idea of shining a light through the colandar. I added a blue gel to the speedlight to give a blue light and took a range of images with the colander in different positions. These can be seen in the contact sheets below.

Although the image chose looks quite dark in the contact sheet there was nice light spatter on the carpet above it. I was also drawn to the two ‘feet’ on the top which reminded me of the two protrusions on the item I’d felt.

I used this image to create the kaleidoscope effect as per the tutorial.

I have annotated below the amendments made to the colander.

This layer was added on top of the kaleidoscope layer and masked to merge them together. The original image was also very blue, so I added a hue and saturation layer to desaturise the colour . I also added some radial blur to the background highlights to give it a softer look. The wavy lines in the centre represent the ‘S’ shape I felt. The image can be view either way up in order to represent the fact that I couldn’t figure out which way round it should be.

Item 2 – Ralph’s object – final image

Assignment 2 – Photographing the Unseen – methodology for assignment

I have decided to concentrate on the idea of exploring how to photograph how it feels to touch something.  The idea is to create an image that is inspired by the item rather than the item itself.

In order to really experience the touch of the item, I feel that I need to eliminate sight from the reality.  To that end I am going to work to the following methodology.

  1. I will ask 7 – 10 people to participate in this assignment with me (the thinking behind this is that I will get objects that I don’t know and therefore won’t be influenced by what they look like)
  2. I will be blindfolded and won’t see the item at all
  3. The participant will be asked to take a photo of the item and a photo of me handling it, but won’t let me see the item.  They will also write a paragraph about the item, and why they chose it.
  4. I’ll handle the object for no more than 5 mins
  5. I will record my comments during the touching sessions so I can make notes afterwards.
  6. The object will be removed immediately, so I don’t see it.
  7. Following this I will create an image based on my feelings of touching the object, which will include colour, state, feelings etc.
  8. I won’t see any of the objects until after all images are complete. (my husband has agreed to collect the images of the items and me handling them and keep them save until the assignment is finished)
  9. Each image must be finished before attempting the next item (I think this is necessary so that individual images aren’t influenced by other items)

I will use this methodology with the first item as a test, it may need to be amended based on my findings, but this feels like a good place to start

The brief for participants can be read here