On seeing the cinematic photography of Gregory Crewdson

I went to C/O Berlin: International Forum for Visual Dialogues which is currently exhibiting 3 series of works by Gregory Crewdson: Fireflies (1996), Beneath the Roses (2003-2007), and Sanctuary (2010).

C/O Berlin was an old post office turned into a cultural institution dedicated to photography since 2006. It is an enormous building which has a lot of history just by looking at the floorboards and the architecture in general. Crewdson’s show occupies the top floor, where a space is allocated to each series. There are about framed 90 large-format photographs, all in colour except for the ‘Fireflies’ series. There’s a video playing an interview with Crewdson in a room at the back.

I had only seen one of Crewdson’s images in the flesh in Melbourne when the Guggenheim exhibition was on at the NGV. To see the whole series ‘Beneath the Roses’ on the wall is quite impressive. It’s my favorite series out of the three. The highly constructed images reflect the extensive planning required to complete one photo. In the hallway, there are drawings sketching out the process. I had seen videos with Crewdson at work: we’re talking about big productions here. The feeling I get with ‘Beneath the roses’ is solitude and loneliness. There is a strong narrative in the series. I’m deeply curious about the original idea from which each image was based on. There are so many interpretations that can be derived. Aesthetically, the photos are impeccable.

The other 2 series are less theatrical. ‘Fireflies’ was Crewdson’s first series done in black and white.There is something minimalist about this series where light trails left by fireflies have been captured on film. Its simplicity is beautiful. With ‘Sanctuary’, the monochromatic series is on old movie sets in Italy. The atmosphere is heavy with loneliness which is a recurring theme in Crewdson’s work, which he talks about in the interview. Overall, the 3 series work well together and are worth checking out.