Gregory Crewdson

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online.

Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below. [accessed 24/02/14]

• Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
Gregory Crewdson’s work looks stunning.  The photographs he produces are so striking they’re difficult to look away from.  I want to look for every clue and don’t mind spending time doing so.  The depth of colours really emphasise the aesthetics in addition to directional lighting.

Part of the beauty within these images invokes some deep visceral meanings  coming from Crewdson.

gregory crewdson boy hand in dreainFig 1. Untitled – Boy with hand in drain (2001–2002)

In the documentary film ‘Gregory Crewdson’s Photography Capturing a Movie Frame’ by Ben Shapiro, Crewdson talks about the above image and goes into detail about his inspiration and where the idea came from.  As a boy he was always thinking about what is down there?  What lies beyond what we can’t see?  He has his own questions and poses them to his audience through his photographs.

• Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?

Crewdsons photographs rely on your own imagination  to think about whats happening, obtain the clues and play the scenario over in your own mind.  The possibilities are limitless.  Crewdson is giving us clues about his own psychological state of mind whilst the story relies on your own psyche to draw the blanks.

The images are psychological in the same sense of a cinematic psychological thriller.  They really draw on the emotions and experiences of both the photographer and the viewer.  You never quite know for sure whats going on but you can come to your own conclusions.

gregory crewdson car in streetFig 2. Untitled (north by northwest) (2004)

This image was spoke about at length in the documentary.  It looks like a pinnacle scene in a psychological thriller.  Why does the street look deserted?  Where are all the people?  Why has the car stopped in the middle of the street?  Where is the driver?  They have clearly left the car, the drivers door is open.  Why is the passenger still in the car on her own?  Why isn’t she getting out?  Is she disturbed by the scene?  The fog is adding to the suspense.

All this questions are making me think about what’s happened here?  Its playing with my mind.  I’m searching for more clues hoping all will become clear.

• What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

I read recently that there are two types of photographer, the ones who take nice photos and those who tell stories.  I used to just want to take nice photographs and they were admired by everyone who knew me.  I then started taking photographs to include more clues as to the story I’m trying to tell and the compliments stopped coming from friends and family, they started coming from professional photographers and photography academics.

I don’t think there is anything wrong in wanting to produce beautiful photographs.  Lets face it, it what everyone wants.  If you can tell a story at the same time then you’ve just moved into the realms of being an ‘artist’.

Beautiful photographs are always a pleasure to view regardless of their intention.  When I photograph newborn babies the main brief is to make that baby look as cute as possible.  My clients already know all the other details about the baby, they don’t want to put clue in the photograph.  Theres nothing wrong with that and they are fit for purpose.  When taking photographs you always have to consider why your taking that photograph.  Is it to look good or to document something?  Regardless of the purpose its possible to make the photograph beautiful in the process.


Fig 1.  Crewdson, G. (2001-2002) Untitled – Boy with hand in drain. At (Accessed 13/08/17).

Fig 2. Crewdson, G. (2001-2002) Untitled (north by northwest). At (Accessed 13/08/17).

Richard Kern on Philip Lorca-diCorcia’s ‘Hustlers’


To find subjects for his series Hustlers, Philip-Lorca diCorcia drove around Hollywood between 1990 and 1992 looking for male prostitutes. Although many of the photos look perfectly timed, off-the-hip candid photos of street hustlers, diCorcia pre-selected the locations and did lighting tests with an assistant before searching for a subject to put in each setting.

DiCorcia approached his subjects in LA’s “Boystown,” an area of West Hollywood where, in the 80s and 90s, a small fee would buy time with available young rent boys found hanging out on Santa Monica Boulevard. Instead of paying them for sex, he paid them to pose for a photo. The men he found came to LA from all OVER the country for a glamorous new life that they believed could be found in Hollywood. The titles of the photos included the subject’s name, age, hometown and the fee exchanged.

This series was funded by a $45,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant that was awarded to diCorcia in 1989. This was during a time when the government agency was under fire from religious groups that believed the NEA was funding art that embraced controversial gay, religious, political, or obscene content.

Andre Serrano’s Piss Christ (a photo of a crucifix in a glass of piss), Robert Mapplethrope’s photos of naked black men, and Karen Finley’s performances in which she covered her naked body with chocolate to illustrate that women were “treated like shit” are just a few examples of the government funded artistic pursuits that made Jesse Helms and Pat Robertson’s 700 Club furious. In this environment, DiCorcia must have found it amusing that a portion of his grant was being used to pay prostitutes.

Marilyn, 28 years old, Las Vegas, Nevada, $30


Chris, 28 years old, Los Angeles, California, $30


Eddie Anderson, 21 years old, Houston, Texas, $20


Gerald Hughes (a.k.a. Savage Fantasy), about 25 years old, Southern California, $50


Major Tom, 20 years old, Kansas City, Kansas, $20


Mike Vincetti, 24 years old, New York, New York, $30


Mike, 26 years old, $40


Ralph Smith, 21 years old, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, $25


Roy, ‘in his 20s’, Los Angeles, California, $50


Tim Morgan Jr., 21 years old, Los Angeles, California, $25 / Joe Egure, 18 years old, Los Angeles, California, $25


Tim, 27 years old, Orange County, California, $30


Setting the Scene

Tableau vivant (plural: tableaux vivants), French for ‘living picture’, is a style of artistic presentation, often shortened to simply tableau. It most often describes a group of suitably costumed actors, carefully posed and often theatrically lit.

mise-en-scène; this literally means ‘to put in the scene’ and refers to the process of setting a scene or a stage for a story to be enacted upon.

Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990: [accessed 24/02/14]

• What does this scene tell you about the main character?

• How does it do this? List the ‘clues’.

The main character is a very influential man and is well known by those around him.  He has lots of connections and commands special treatment.  He is a wealthy man who rewards those that help him.  He is Good looking and charming.  He is respected and liked.  He lies easily.  He’s smarter and a quick thinker.  He enjoys nice things and good entertainment.  He is illusive and mysterious.

The clues that paint set the scene are:

  • He doesn’t wait in line like all the other customers, he has his own entrance.  The staff at the restaurant all know him and either have a part to play in his wellbeing or ‘look the other way’.  He’s never challenged about his presence in the kitchen despite a long walk through domestic areas.
  • He hands out $20 dollar bills to people who look after him.  This is for things like, looking after  his car, opening doors, getting him a table etc.
  • On entry to the restaurant he is greeted by the owner/manager who has a table setup at the front immediately.
  • He has an attractive woman on his arm who is bewildered by his lifestyle.
  • The group of gentlemen at the table next to him all greet him by his name.
  • The men on the next table have sent drinks to his table.
  • His ‘lady’ questions how he can afford to give out $20 bills like sweets and asks ‘what do you do?’.  He says he works in construction.  When this is challenged he has a story ready.
  • He wears nice clothes, looks good and drives a very nice car.  His date couldn’t believe he would trust someone to look after it.
  • The club is dark, the walls covered in red, with minimal lighting.  Easy to slip in and out of.