I have long regarded Gregory Crewdson as the greatest living photographer on Earth. Period. His photographs, almost exclusively taken in the small towns in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, are so astonishing they stay with you for quite some time. The Paris Review writes, “His photos, mostly of American towns that could be any dead mill town (the colors too bright, the light too spooky) create such an evocative mood that the viewer becomes part of the story. His work has to the power to linger in the brain long after seeing it.” Crewdson rarely gives interviews, which is why I instantly clicked on The Paris Review’s article which contained a conversation with the legendary photographer. A few seconds afterwards I was floored when I realized the interview was part of the promotion for a brand new documentary on the artist which is opening soon entitled Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounter directed by Ben Shapiro. The following is a brief excerpt from that conversation:
THE PARIS REVIEW: When it comes to Mad Men, do you like the set design and period detail?
GREGORY CREWDSON: I think it’s perfect in so many different ways, but it’s so beautiful to look at, so exquisitely detailed and rendered. The light’s so beautiful and the decor all fits together like a complete, perfect set piece.
THE PARIS REVIEW: Blue Velvet and David Lynch are often cited as influences on your work. I think there’s something about watching Lynch’s work with an audience that makes it seem a little more satirical and straightforward. Do you think there’s something about that aspect that takes away from the dreamscape and off-kilter factor of Lynch?
GREGORY CREWDSON: No, because I think watching movies in a theater is like a dream. It’s like a dream. That’s why when we watch a movie, we’re going into a dreamscape and when the movie breaks or something, we all let out a collective moan because we’re all disrupted from the dream.
THE PARIS REVIEW: Do you do that to mess with the light?
GREGORY CREWDSON: It creates atmosphere, and you see light better. In the end, in the final pictures, it’s just barely in the air. It creates a little texture.
THE PARIS REVIEW: How do you feel about the magic hour?
GREGORY CREWDSON: Funny, because obviously it’s so beautiful, the magic hour, but the whole main reason to be shooting in that hour is that it’s the only window where you can work with the lights and daylight at the same time. It started as a practical thing, and then I started to realize how that’s such a period of transition and transformation. My work’s very much about being between places, and that’s very much about that.
THE PARIS REVIEW: Favorite magic hours on film?
GREGORY CREWDSON: Well, Terrence Malick’s the genius of magic hour. Badlands is one of the most perfect movies. He was notorious for driving producers crazy since he would shoot for only five minutes a day.
You can read the entire interview by visiting TheParisReview.org. For some time now I have been using Crewdson’s famous 2006 photo “Untitled (Brief Encounter)” as my Facebook cover photo along with the Carl Sagan quote “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known”. Not only because of its reference to the discoveries that await us in both our lives and the universe at large, but also because with each glimpse of a Crewdson photograph I consistently discover new things. In the trailer for the documentary Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounter, Crewdson remarks, “To me, the most powerful moment in the whole process is when everything comes together. And for that instance my life makes sense.” Fascinating words from one of the world’s most fascinating creative minds. For more information on the documentary be sure to visit GregoryCrewdsonMovie.com.