Internationally praised still photographer Gregory Crewdson works in a cinematic style; that is, he does extensive preproduction with a crew, has used up to 75 huge lights on a shoot over a half mile of space, directs every minute detail, and draws ideas from movies, "Psycho" and "Blue Velvet" to name two. As the portrait of this man emerges, Shapiro doesn't skimp on the details but doesn't get distracted either, content to establish the essentials while spending the lion's share of the film watching Crewdson work.
Crewdson grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope and credits his father's profession as a psychoanalyst for his own attention to narrative in his photos and for his emphasis on "submerged psychological dramas." When his father took him, at the age of 10, to a Diane Arbus exhibit, Crewdson realized the power and urgency, as he puts it, of a still image. He played in a band as a teenager and soon gravitated to the study of photography, at which he so excels that his work sells for $125,000 an image.
Refreshingly unassuming and honest, Crewdson takes us into his confidence as he talks about six years of work on his "Beneath the Roses" series. He says every shoot feels like a failure because something always goes wrong. But the photos shown here are haunting and superb. Though the film is subdued and periodically slow, I appreciated having the time to think about Crewdson's deliberate, meticulous way of setting up a shot and to contemplate his interesting ideas about his work.
The St. Louis premiere of "Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters" will be at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, February 1st through Sunday, February 3rd. For information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or go to the web at: Webster.edu/filmseries.