Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lights! Camera! and Hold!

Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters (2012) - Shapiro
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I like Crewdson's large format, cinematic photographs. I was excited about this documentary coming out but missed the chance to see it in theaters this spring. The native Brooklyn photographer is known for capturing scenarios of lost (white) American dream in the suburban/small town setting that New England writers are so fond of (apparently, Russell Banks and Rick Moody are big fan of his work and are interviewed in the film). As Crewdson talks about Cindy Sherman and David Lynch as inspirations, you can see where he's sensibilities are coming from. Unfortunately, Shapiro's doc is all about the process- how he shoots his massive scale photos working with a DP, production designer, set decorators and editors. It is indeed interesting stuff that he regards his photographic process as a film shoot with same amount of people and equipment as a moderate indie movie set. Instead of 'lights, camera and action!', it's 'lights, camera and hold!'

The doc never delves into how a well to do Brooklynite became photographing suburban decay. Crewdson comes across as a nice enough guy and his meticulousness (shouting from a cherry picker, "move your left hand about 2 inches up and to the right!") is pretty cool. But what motivates him to gravitate toward his subjects? Also, his post-touch up heavy process made me wonder about being an artist in the tech heavy age. Call me old fashioned, but I feel ambivalent about his compositing final product from many different takes, physically removing certain things from the frame and whatnot. I guess what matters at the end is selling your photos of poor folks for upward of one hundred thousand dollars to rich folks.

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