Superbly lit loneliness

Everyday life in small American suburbs, the desolation of an old Italian film studio, and nightly fireflies in the woods. Gregory Crewdson captures the loneliness with his camera.

From SNDS Magazine no. 4, 2011

His work may seem like the opposite of press photography, but Gregory Crewdson actually finds his inspiration for his amazing work in both movies, art, and documentary photo­graphy.

In practice, Crewdson works more like a film director than a photographer. His monumental images demand months of sketching and preparation, he uses a production gear the size of a rock band on a world tour and a crew of many people to set the scene before the perfect photo is in the box.

So it is no wonder that the most recent series of photos in the exhibition was shot in Cinecittà, the legend­ary now decayed movie studios outside Rome, Italy, where Federico Fellini staged his masterpieces in the 1930ies.

In Crewdson’s photos, light and landscape play key roles. By carefully setting the light of the well-prepared, staged location (outdoor or indoor) and instructing the people to pose for the photo, Crewdson creates beautiful but disturbing environ­ments in which time seems to have stopped. The ordinary people who inhabit the images appear to not being able to move – not frozen in mid-motion, but rather standing still as if they have slowed down to a halt or have been placed in their position like a puppet in a doll’s house.

The photos are super realistic, every detail is razor sharp, but also extremely articifial and arranged – nothing is left to chance. The atmosphere is private, almost intimate but at the same time keeping the viewer at a distance. As Crewdson puts it – “It’s about being there but not there”.

All photos carry a sense of loneliness, which gave the exhibition its title – In a Lonely Place. This is also the title of a 1950 Humphrey Bogart film noir. In the movie, the lonely place was the “ideal location to commit a crime”. In Crewdson’s work, you get the same creepy feeling – only, it’s impos­sible to say if the crime has already been committed, or if we’re waiting for it. Fascinating and frightening all at once.

The exhibition is shown in the Black Diamond, next year’s venue for the SPACE_2012 SNDS seminar. The exhibition will travel to Stenersen Museum in Oslo in the spring of 2012.

Gregory Crewdson: “In a Lonely Place”
The National Photo Museum
Den Sorte Diamant, Copenhagen
Open until 28 January 2012.
Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm

A 160 page catalogue with beautiful reproductions of all works available on Amazon
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Top photo:
Beneath the Roses: This monumental series of photographs is inhabited by ordinary people in everyday situations – and then again: something extra is there, waiting in the ghostly sparsely lit locations that Crewdson builds before his camera. Archival pigment print, 144.8 x 223.5 cm. Photo: Gregory Crewdson.

The desolated Cinecittà in Rome, Italy, is the location for the most recent series of Crewdson’s work. Archival pigment print, 53.8 x 71.7 cm. Photo: Gregory Crewdson.