Brief Encounters: Gregory Crewdson Documentary

Brief Encounters the documentary


This documentary is interesting for artists of any medium. Gregory Crewdson comes across as a perfectionist in the strain of Steve Jobs and other extremely innovative and creative types.

I liked the part where he walks past a beautiful spot, full of trees and flowers and mutters, ‘Too picturesque,’ settling instead upon some grimy corner of suburbia. Crewdson sees the beauty in ordinariness. His human subjects match their environs: they are not perfect, healthy-looking specimens; instead they look like they have lived. The photographs of Crewdson himself as a young man depict a rather beautiful specimen, but as he has aged he has filled out and grown his grey hair long, vaguely reminiscent of Peter Jackson. He, too, looks like he has lived. He could be an object in his own composition.

It’s also reassuring to know that these beautiful photographs weren’t just happy accidents. This film is a reminder that often, great work comes only after sweat and tears… and a huge team of people, I might add. Next time I take a nice photo which is a happy accident I’m sure I’ll be more appreciative of it, and when I take a crappy one, hoping it’s better, I’ll understand why it’s not.

Crewdson believes that artists each have a single story to tell. The challenge is telling that same story again, over and over, in a slightly different way each time.

He needs a break between projects to recharge emotionally and become a slightly different person. I’ve heard a few artists say that same thing.

He also seems to know when he’s finished. He knows when a photo shoot is ready to go, and he knows exactly when to wind up a project. I wonder if this is part of what makes him talented. Knowing when to stop is an important instinct to have.

Related: For more staged, slightly off-kilter photographs, this time with a feminine sensibility, see Julie Blackmon Photographs Dreamy Domestic Scenes, at Beautiful Decay.

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