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TwilightReview - Twilight
Photographs
by Gregory Crewdson
Harry N Abrams, 2002
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jul 24th 2005 (Volume 9, Issue 29)

Twilight is a collection of forty photographs by Gregory Crewdson.  They are carefully staged with a strongly cinematic feel.  They are all untitled, and Crewdson gives no explanation in the book about his intent.  However, they have thematic unity, and give the impression that they are all set in the small town nestled in the hills, probably in New England.  The exhibition prints are 48"x60" so these reproductions are much smaller than the originals, and lose some of the power that comes with the large size.  But these pictures still strongly convey mystery and unsettled feelings.  Nearly all the images here depict scenes of unusual events, with several seeming supernatural or involving signs of extraterrestrial life.  Plate 5 shows a young man standing outside a house, at the end of the driveway, just as night is starting.  He is lit by a beam of light from a source outside of the picture, coming from high up in the sky.  He looks up trying to see what it is.  Plate 8 shows a number of young people out in the middle of a secluded street at the end of the day, probably having just come from their houses, all staring at a large pile of flowers that seem to have appeared in the road.  Plate 16 shows a young girl in her back garden, looking cautiously into her garden shed, in from which a powerful light is shining, and butterflies come out from the shed.  In plate 19, which is also the cover photograph, a house is flooded with about two feet of water, and in the center of the picture, a young woman lies in a nightdress, floating on the water.  Her face carries a preoccupied look, as she stares into space, as if she were having a rapturous experience.  On the stairs are her slippers, and it seems that she has got into the water deliberately, unconcerned about the damage done to her home. Outside, the sun is very low on the horizon.  In plate 32, three people sit around their kitchen table eating dinner.  According to the clock on the wall, it is 7:20.  A mature man and a younger man sit at each end of the table, looking at each other, while a younger girl sits looking down.  None of them are eating.  In the doorway, a naked older woman has just come in the room, holding something in her hands, and having dragged in a considerable amount of earth and flowers onto the carpet.  The woman is looking haggard, and she seems to be paying no attention to the others, who in turn pay no attention to her. 

These eerie pictures seem to tell a story, but the viewer can only guess what it is.  It would be about the interruption of small town values, the tensions within families, the division between the young and the old, the significance of pregnancy and the power of nature.  The images are simultaneously unsettling and intriguing, with a strong sense of the absurd pervading them.  They bring to mind the TV series The X-Files or movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but their focus is on ordinary people coping with strange events.  It is striking that none of the people express fear or even alarm in reaction to the odd circumstances -- they look curious, contemplative, sad, or resigned.  This work is an extraordinary technical accomplishment, and at the end of the book, the production notes and credits give some indication of the many people who were involved in the creation of these images.  While there was probably some manipulation of the pictures in the darkroom or possibly with computer software, most of the special effects were achieved through creating them in real life.  Nearly every picture has very distinctive sense use of light, giving what could have appeared ludicrous an aura of wonder and realism. 

It is hard to assign any particular meaning to this collection, and Rick Moody's typically self-indulgent, although entertaining, essay at the beginning does not shed much light on it.  However, Crewdson's work is likely to have popular appeal and naturally different viewers will assign their own interpretations.  Crewdson's forthcoming book should be even more exciting, judging from a recent exhibition of his work and the samples available on the Internet.

 

Links:

·        Gregory Crewdson at artnet.com

·        Q&A with Gregory Crewdson

·        PBS Egg show on Gregory Crewdson

 

© 2005 Christian Perring. All rights reserved. 

 

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Academic Chair of the Arts & Humanities Division and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is also editor of Metapsychology Online Review.  His main research is on philosophical issues in medicine, psychiatry and psychology.


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