An In-Depth Look at The Work of Photographer Gregory Crewdson

Portrait photographer Gregory Crewdson, known for his elaborate and though-provoking photographs, was featured by Reserve Channel a while back. The half-hour video goes in-depth about Crewdson’s process as well as the motivation behind his work. The elaborateness of his setups are often reminiscent of setups on a film shoot versus still photography, giving Crewdson his own unique approach and look to his photographs. Check out the video to get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into creating his iconic images.

One thing apparent from the very beginning of the video is Crewdson’s love for cinema. It starts following Crewdson on a project where he has a vision to photograph an elaborate setup featuring a burning house. The number of crew members reach the dozens and communication is done via walkie-talkies. It’s essentially a film shoot in terms of production elements, but all for a still image. Like a director, he also works alongside a director of photography who assists with lighting and grip based considerations. Technically many of the lights he’s using are constant sources ranging from tungsten to HMI’s. Given Crewdson’s unique approach to creating photos themselves, it’s not surprising he’d use constant sources versus strobes which are popular with more traditional photographers.

After the burning house shoot, we get a look into his post-production process. It begins with him looking through contact sheets alongside a retoucher. Often his images are pieced together from multiple exposures. Even the retoucher remarks that it’s rare that he chooses the final image from one single exposure, it’s often more composites of multiple photographs all with unique elements that capture what he’s looking for. Crewdson also opens up about his early beginnings working alone in Massachusetts and how his work gradually evolved over time. It’s interesting to see his work go from beautiful landscapes of suburban America to elaborate, cinematic-like images involving people.

I’ve been a fan of Crewdson’s work for many years and always liked his cinematic approach. I recall having a talk with Phoblographer editor-in-chief Chris Gampat about making the transition to constant lighting for my own work. There’s a certain quality about constant sources that is lost with strobes and it opens up certain creative possibilities. Beyond the technical aspects of Crewdson’s work, what’s key is the conceptual aspects. Crewdson spends time coming up with concepts and sweats the small details from color to wardrobe, time of day, perspective, etc. This attention to detail and being a stickler for achieving the vision he has in his head is what, to me, sets him apart from many other photographers.

Check out the video and if you’d like to see more of Crewdson’s work, visit his website here.