Cours sur la photo numérique

Cours de photographie (2005-2011)

EGG : Interview with Gregory Crewdson

EGG : What is your photographic process ?

GC : Well, it’s a very complex process and there are various aspects to it. But I think, despite the enormous production that goes into the photographs, it’s also an extremely organic and visceral process as well. Typically, I come up with an image in my mind that seems one way or another compelling and then, if I feel strongly about it, I will work with my production assistant to try to find the perfect location for this image. Then, I try to piece [it] together, almost like a puzzle, to try to create the image so it comes together. And typically, that means working with a quite extensive production crew. I work with a cinematographer, I work with electricians, assistants, I work with a production designer. It’s very much like making a small-scale film. But ultimately, it is a photograph. Even though we use cinematic production, ultimately what I am interested in is something still and quiet and evocative. So the "Twilight" series all occurs at this moment of transition between day and night, and because of that we tend to use an enormous amount of lighting. I really like that moment where the ambient light comes together and works together with the artificial light and creates this very powerful and evocative palette. I work with this team to try to produce or recreate the image that’s in my mind.

EGG : Why aren’t you behind the camera ? How do you define your role in the process ?

GC : I think that there are a few different pragmatic reasons why I am not behind the camera. One is that it is an 8 by 10 camera. It’s a very large-format camera ; it’s cumbersome when I am in the situation to be oppressed by it or burdened by it. So I always frame the picture earlier, establish the frame of the photograph, and then I think it is more important for me to be somewhere between the cameraman and the subject. And I don’t want to be worrying about "Do I have the right focus, do I have the right exposure" — and also, Dan, the cameraman, is a much better technician then I am. I quite honestly am not particularly good at any one thing, and I am not attempting to be modest. I know I could never light a photograph as well as my cinematographer ; I could never construct these totemic structures that I make. I think what I am good at is creating a situation. I think that is what I am good at. I know how to create a situation through various relationships with my crew and my surroundings. So if I need a fire truck, for instance, or if I need an elevated crane, or if I need — like a picture that I did this past week — 80 young schoolchildren in three school buses, I think I am good at sort of creating that sort of situation.

EGG : What do you like most about these grand-scale productions ?

GC : One of the aspects that I like about the productions is that there is, I think, an extraordinary coming together of different worlds. Not only do we have the people in the neighborhood, but on the production crew we have people that have worked their entire life in films, working alongside a tree surgeon or a landscaper. And I think that kind of confluence is really wonderful. It creates an interesting set that I like more then a completely professional crew because it gives a sort of liveliness to the pictures, and you know there is an interesting set of dynamics that are produced through that.

EGG : What draws you to photography ?

GC : I think I always have been drawn to photography because I want to construct a perfect world. I want to try to create this moment that is separate from the chaos of my life, and to do that I think I create enormous disorder. And I like that craziness because I think that it creates almost a sort of neurotic energy on the set, and through that there is a moment of transportation. And in all my pictures what I am ultimately interested in is that moment of transcendence or transportation, where one is transported into another place, into a perfect, still world. Despite my compulsion to create this still world, it always meets up against the impossibility of doing so. So, I like the collision between this need for order and perfection and how it collides with a sense of the impossible. I like where possibility and impossibly meet.

EGG : What is your relationship with the people of Lee, Massachusetts like ?

GC : I think part of the complication in the pictures I make is the kind of intrusion I have onto the neighborhood. I think that there are two sides to that. At certain times, there’s this sense that there’s this magical event occurring. In other times, I know I am just a nuisance and that I am intruding in people’s lives and I’m making a mess when blocking the street or closing them. I think if I was overly concerned with all these issues (I’m very sensitive to them) it would create a paralysis. I just have to know that ultimately, perhaps at moments I’ll just push too hard and then come back. But I think that if I didn’t have this sense of connection to the neighborhood that these pictures couldn’t be made. So, it’s not only a portrait of a particular person. It’s the portrait of a community and the neighborhood and my own kind of mythology of it.

Par stephane, 7 avril 2008