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Gregory Crewdson’s Cinematic Photographs Stand Alone

At first glance, Gregory Crewdson’s photographs are stills from eerie films with small American towns as backdrops. But these movies don’t actually exist. These tableaux, as Lynchian or Hitchcockian as they may seem, are single-frame narratives. Sometimes, the story is one of loneliness, even as multiple people share a room. Other times, there’s something more overly haunting and surreal at work, a moment of sustained horror that exists just after the climax of an arc.

At first glance, Gregory Crewdson’s photographs are stills from eerie films with small American towns as backdrops. But these movies don’t actually exist. These tableaux, as Lynchian or Hitchcockian as they may seem, are single-frame narratives. Sometimes, the story is one of loneliness, even as multiple people share a room. Other times, there’s something more overly haunting and surreal at work, a moment of sustained horror that exists just after the climax of an arc.

Crewdson’s work is lit, staged, and acted in old-Hollywood fashion. Rooms are actually flooded, houses are really demolished, and babies are crying between shots. And his subjects are often residents of the town in which Crewdson photographs these scenes. His process was depicted in the film Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters, which offers a decade-long peek inside the mind of the Brooklyn native. The film was directed by documentarian and cinematographer Ben Shapiro. “My pictures are about the search for a moment,” Crewdson says in the film, “a perfect moment.”

The subject of the film is the series Beneath the Roses, which took 10 years to complete. More than 100 crew members took part in the project.

Crewdson’s work is currently in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art, and The Los Angeles County Museum.

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