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Archive for the ‘Crewdson Response’ Category

Gregory Crewdson talked about his path to photography and the process of creating his photographic works of art. He created a connection between his photographic compositions of American homes and neighborhoods and his childhood years of growing up in a Brooklyn brownstone. He mentioned the surreal composition of his works were a probable connection to his childhood curiosities of the inner sanctum of his father’s pschychiatric office, which was out of bounds for him. He likened his neighborhood to that of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear window” where a viewer could get a voyeuristic view of the interiors of neighboring homes. He mentioned being inspired by painter Ed Hopper’s portrayal of people in his compositions, much like his own.
Crewdson commented on his dylexia and his difficulties with writing skills which made it difficult for him to use writing instruments. As a result, he never visualizes his concepts on paper, as most creative thinkers do. His process of ideation relies on his inner feelings which he dwells on during isolated moments to find creative inspiration. He mentioned swimming as one of those times which allows him to reflect and get ideas. After concepting an idea, he works with his team to produce the artwork. His work is strongly influenced by works of film makers of the fifties. Like the making of a film, his work is dependent on intensive pre-production and post-production schedules. He explained though that the stark difference between any film and his work was that his work captured only an instant in time, unlike films which have a continuity with the past or the future.
Though he wanted to be a pschychiatrist and had no plans of pursuing a career as a photographer, there is an interesting connection to Crewdson’s life story in a song he composed and titled “Let Me Take Your Foto”. The song was composed in his teenage days as part of a rock group he had formed with his friends. Years later, in 2005, after he gained fame through his photographic works, the song received publicity as part of Hewlett Packard’s promotional advertisement campaign. Interestingly, the title of the song chosen several decades earlier, seemed perfectly appropriate when used for the corporate publicity.

Gregory Crewdson talked about his path to photography and the process of creating his photographic works of art. He created a connection between his photographic compositions of American homes and neighborhoods and his childhood years of growing up in a Brooklyn brownstone. He mentioned the surreal composition of his works were a probable connection to his childhood curiosities of the inner sanctum of his father’s pschychiatric office, which was out of bounds for him. He likened his neighborhood to that of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear window” where a viewer could get a voyeuristic view of the interiors of neighboring homes. He mentioned being inspired by painter Ed Hopper’s portrayal of people in his compositions, much like his own.
Crewdson commented on his dylexia and his difficulties with writing skills which made it difficult for him to use writing instruments. As a result, he never visualizes his concepts on paper, as most creative thinkers do. His process of ideation relies on his inner feelings which he dwells on during isolated moments to find creative inspiration. He mentioned swimming as one of those times which allows him to reflect and get ideas. After concepting an idea, he works with his team to produce the artwork. His work is strongly influenced by works of film makers of the fifties. Like the making of a film, his work is dependent on intensive pre-production and post-production schedules. He explained though that the stark difference between any film and his work was that his work captured only an instant in time, unlike films which have a continuity with the past or the future.
Though he wanted to be a pschychiatrist and had no plans of pursuing a career as a photographer, there is an interesting connection to Crewdson’s life story in a song he composed and titled “Let Me Take Your Foto”. The song was composed in his teenage days as part of a rock group he had formed with his friends. Years later, in 2005, after he gained fame through his photographic works, the song received publicity as part of Hewlett Packard’s promotional advertisement campaign. Interestingly, the title of the song chosen several decades earlier, seemed perfectly appropriate when used for the corporate publicity.

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I figured it would be interesting to go back and look at Crewdson’s creative process and relate it to the ideas presented throughout the semester. Many of the ideas presented apply fairly well to Crewdson’s work moving from Pre-Production, Production and finally through Post-Production.

Simonton – Simonton’s theory of blind variation, selective retention applies well to Crewdson’s process. The theory that many ideas happen when a person is doing unrelated things that are then selectively pursued is apparent as Crewdson talks about his “eureka” moments for conceptualizing his ideas happening while he is swimming. Swimming is a key relaxation medium for Crewdson that allows him to creatively arrive at the images in his head as Simonton theorized.

Nersessian – Expanding on Simonton’s theory, Nersessian talks about metaphor and how “eureka” moments are not completely random but the result of many small incremental successes leading to the final problem solving success. It is evident in Crewdson’s use of water in many of his photographs that there is a greater connection between his works and his ideas while swimming then being purely random or blind.

Bohm – The aspect of “Bohm on Creativity” that struck me the most is the concept that the use of metaphor is not just how two unrelated things are similar but how they are both different in similar ways. Crewdson talks extensively about his father’s psychology practice and the discomfort and voyeuristic nature of peeking through holes in the floor to see the mystery of what his father was doing. This unique aspect of his childhood presents itself in the unresolved and distant feel of Crewdson’s works. What separates Crewdson’s childhood from others’ childhood is the same that separates his works from other photographers’ works.

Csikezentmihalyi – While I still feel flow is not an inherent part of the creative process, there is no denying the use of flow to describe Crewdson’s process. Crewdson describes being in Production as the time when he is most engaged with is work and finds the most pleasure. This is a clear example of someone being in a state of flow. There may not be any “eureka” style creative moments, but maybe  being in a state of flow is the conduit for getting the creative novel idea in your head into a tangible medium, such as a photograph, that has the utility or function.

Whitehead – Trying to relate Whitehead to Crewdson would be a 3 – 4 post long discussion in and of itself so I will talk about Whitehead just on the surface. Whitehead talks about how every pulse of experience is us trying to have an aesthetic achievement that we overlook. Crewdson being a photographer aims to bring that moment of aesthetic achievement back into our minds. This is apparent in the unresolved nature of his works. His works are very clearly just a moment in time and these moments have a desire to be beautiful regardless of the narrative and other pulses of experience surrounding them before and after.

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For those tuning in to our discussion from afar, it may be helpful to get a little background info on Crewdson’s work.  Here are some links that may be helpful.

First, a five-minute interview with Crewdson in which he talks about his process. Moreover there is video of the production of his photos and images of his photos:

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  The preface to Bohm’s “On Creativity” showed promise of an interesting concept of a broadening of the mind and of taking different perspectives in a harmonious (if not mystical) world.

 At first, Bohm argues that what is needed to solve problems is an open and creative mindset.  A new schema must be adopted so that the problem solver must re-interpret information and work out creative solutions to problems.  I believe that this is certainly key to problem solving, and it supports both Simonton and Nersessian, who both argue that in order to be creative one must think “outside the box” or the domain of the familiar. For example, if you are a physicist and that is the “mindset” within which you operate, you will find more creative solutions if you apply what you know about other disciplines, say chemistry or biology, to your problem, you will create new solutions. More simply stated, if you look at a problem with a different set of rules, you will an entirely different set of possible solutions.

 Where Bohm goes wrong is in his overture to reform society in the name of creativity. Of course, I may be exaggerating his intentions, but his argument seems paradoxical at this point because he wants mankind to reject what it is to be human (religion, social structure, aesthetics) in a quest to become creative, which is also a human characteristic. Doesn’t religion satisfy a human need? Doesn’t a sense of community, nationality, and family also satisfy human needs? Humans are ultimately a self-organizing species, and I don’t believe that individuals could collectively place more importance on creativity than on the features that enable a homeostatic society.

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I have followed Gregory Crewdson’s work for some time now, and while I found the images interesting, I never realized how much craftsmanship goes into each picture. After having the opportunity to meet him face to face and talk about his creative process, I am an even bigger fan of him, his work, and his approach. That being said, I still find his view of the world as dissociated, alien, full of anxiety, isolation and fear to be melancholy, and unsettling. Maybe it’s because I spend much of my time in art making attempting to find a way in this modern, fast paced, mediated world to feel and find a connection – many times unsuccessfully.

As Mr. Crewdon said several times, his work records the moment’s in-between moments. His images are of ordinary moments that are meticulously created by he and his creative team. Every detail is intentional. He said that he is very interested in the surface of things, and that the color of the walls matter, the fabric matters, the angle of the bed matters. His intent is not to suggest a narrative, or tell a story, but rather create a beautiful, mysterious image. Crewdson believes that all artist have a single story to tell, which they will spend their career telling, a thousand different ways. This was a huge aha moment for me. I tend to use and reuse several visual references in my work, and have often wondered why. Now I realize that this is just my way of telling my single story, over and over again. I loved the way he described how the visual references come about for him – they are his obsessions, neurosis, and vulnerabilities being shown symbolically. I found his honesty refreshing and challenging to my own sense of what is ok to share as an artist about my own process.

Another topic I find fascinating about Crewdson’s work is this idea of moments between moments, and light between lights. To me it seemed to suggest ‘the gap’ so often talked about in Buddhism. I asked him at our morning meeting if this was a conscious reference to the Buddhist idea of living in the present moment, and his response was no. I loved this idea that I created my own narrative, or response to his images, that have nothing to do with his intent. This is what I have always thought art was in the first place  – to cause the artist and viewers to have their own emotional response to the body of images.

Finally, the topic of structure and how important it is to the creative process was a very informative and helpful discussion. Crewdson stated that restriction is important to creativity, that every artist needs restrictions, rules, structure, habit, and routine in order to crate. In reference to Dr. Simonton’s theory that in order to be more creative one must go lower on the creative hierarchy, I believe that Crewdosn addressed my previous question, “is it important for a very creative person to go higher on the creative hierarchy in order to provide structure and definition to their ideas, and projects?”. Our morning discussion helped me answer that question for myself. Yes, at some point in the creative process we must setup both structure/restriction and freedom in order for a truly creative and original project to develop and then be completed.

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In Crewdson’s works, the images that I appreciated most where those that posed subtle narratives. Photographs that carried more surreal content and abstract metaphors of death, cyclicality, recurrence, were differently alluring. Images that guided thoughts work the viewer differently. Details, which mostly involved planted objects, but included opportune chance encounters, prop interpretation. They suspend one in a moment of in-betweeness. While a moment clearly existed, it seemed that the backstories, different energies and opposing tensions opened a space for potential dimensions/backstories.. And it is the interestingness of that potential that makes for fascinating pictures. Crewedson’s suggestions are not top heavy—no one possible account of things is spelled out—rather subtle clues suggest a variety of competing scenarios. ” Uncanny” facial expressions also entertain by removing social masks and making evident visceral emotions.

I suppose the generation of this sort of sentiment is somewhat necessary for some of Crewson’s works, but in others, facial expressions, open doors, might suggest a epiphanic moment. A little gateway into twilight time when things come together/move apart, the following moment might very well be kairotic. That suspended moment is simply, interesting.

Kinda made me think of how liminality can both bother and fascinate people. When standing on the threshold of a door and holding it open on a roomful of people, one may eventually become irking. Err. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The indecision catches ones eye, holds one’s attentions more than would normally be justified. People won’t settle until traffic settles. Related to this is why trails need to be blazed, people don’t like to be left hanging. We need to understand the picture or shrug and walk away. I suppose the greatest creative works oftentimes come from those who are willing to suspend themselves, those that are willing to let the grounds below dissolve, and reach for paradigms outside the sphere of known methodologies.

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On Thursday, the talk with Crewdson at the DMA was insightful, as was the previous night’s lecture.  One of the aspects of his work that I find interesting is how he only works in small towns and with domestic settings.  Crewdson’s photographs express a strangeness and feeling of isolation and alienation.   When there is more than one figure in the work, the “soft props” (what he calls figures)  form a relationship in their juxtaposition that speaks more to isolation than when there is only one figure.   Rather than the work expressing loneliness through isolation from city life, the artist chooses to work in small towns and domestic settings.  This is interesting since Crewdson lives in NYC and is from NYC, which is arguable the city that more than any place in America forces one to feel alienated with the overcrowded and cramped public spaces and equally proportioned private spaces.  At Yale,  life is not art; instead, art is theater.  It is spectacle.

Is the isolation in city life  too real for Crewdson?  The location is crucial to his work, as the artist mentioned that he would drive for hours looking for the perfect spot.  He said that he  just knew it when he saw it.  Is the site a completely aesthetic decision, or is it because a smaller municipality gives the artist more freedom to do whatever creative whim that comes over him; for instance, NYC would probably not let him catch a house on fire or turn off the street lights, change the street lights to yellow, or remove signs and fixtures to accommodate the artist’s vision.  His aesthetic decision to work at rural site-specific locations says something about his work; I just am not sure what.

Crewdson’s work supports Bohm’s idea of creativity as  the building up of parts to form some sort of wholeness or unity.   His work set on a sound stage also supports this claim, for Crewdson and his crew arrange different parts to form a whole. He spoke about work that was bad and never made it to print, and he also talked about unplanned happy accidents that occurred during the artistic process.  Failures and mistakes should happen when one is in the creative act; moreover, in order for a happy accident, there must be a mistake, so all artists should humbly embrace  moments when their work does not go as planned.

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