Gregory Crewdson's Photography Sets Are Really Intense

I can't remember the first time I saw this video by Gregory Crewdson but I'm glad it came across our desk again. Gregory is more or less a conceptual photographer who uses both sound stages and real locations to create images that make you stop and question what is going on in the shot. His lighting is very similar to what you would see on a big budget movie, and the amount of resources required for these sorts of productions is probably beyond what most photographers would even consider.

Patrick Hall's picture

Patrick Hall is a founder of and a photographer based out of Charleston, South Carolina.

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As photographers I consider what we do as the reverse of what a painting artist does. A painter starts with a blank canvas and adds what he wants to produce the vision he had. As photographers we start with a frame and remove objects from the frame and position objects that already in the frame to create our images. But this guy, he seems to do what a painter does by creating his environments from scratch. He creates a different reality to be photographed. Pretty impressive, but I don't think I'd ever have the budget to do that.

Although I think this Photographer is impressive and his images look good. For me its just too complicated, it looks like a screen capture from a movie. There is no relationship with the subjects in the photo and the photographer. He is not capturing a moment he is creating a fake one. Granted some might say we create fake moments in the studio but I would argue that you are interacting with the subjects/model and capturing that moment. I guess that's cool for him but it seems just a little too much. Like closing Main street for a whole week to get and accumulation of snow...come on man! How do you even get money to cover the budget for something like that?

@Tim- I agree 100%. It's over complicated to the point of not looking fun for anyone involved... I've seen a few videos of him at work and it feels like an unhappy movie crew making a movie they know sucks.... But I must admit the end result is quite amazing.

I am seeing Gregory speak soon in Sydney. This has really whetted my appetite.

@ Tim, most commercial photography involves creating a fake moment, when I shoot engagements and wedding portraits, I work to create a fake moment. I'm not sure what's wrong with that.

@ Tomas, who cares about the crew? When was the last time you ate at a restaurant and wondered if the guy who cooked your steak was happy with his job?

I think it's all fantastic. Great BTS, it's really refreshing to see people doing stuff like that. I can't imagine making architectural drawings for a set. When was this made? It seems like all this could be achieved with some digital help for less. But then again an 8 x 10 produces a certain quality that you can't get digitally.

@Adam I hear where your coming from, and I totally understand because I do the same thing. However when you are interacting with your subjects on a commercial shoot or a wedding or engagement you are getting them to interact with you and and than you are capturing that moment with your camera. What this gentleman is doing is different. Impressive? Absolutely! Especially the architectural drawings.However he even mentions this is the only way he knows how to make a photograph...seriously? Come on lets take a step back into reality.

Understand I am not questioning his final product because it looks awesome. All I am saying is his way of getting that final product feels very fake and is completely over the top.

Gregory Crewdson is more like a movie Director than a Photographer. He has a Director of Photography who is the real Photographer.
This may seem over-the-top to still photographers, but are No-Big-Deal to movie crews. They do this kind of thing everyday.
@Thomas, they look like they are having fun. Having fun while their bank balance increases. 8-D

Fascinating concept! Raises the question for me though, do you have to hold a camera to be a photographer?? And if you do, what is he doing?

Just a random thought =)

I totally agree about the whole thing being too damn much for a photo shoot. I've seen other photographers make such engaging images without the whole complications. But with that said, I think most of us agree that the end results are pretty awesome. His photographic style is kind of a step away from the norm of "capturing the image at the peak of the moment". Mr. Crewdon's style introduces suspense and mystery to the photograph, which makes it quite engaging and thrilling. I say this because each image sort of forces you to stop and think for a second and go, "What's going on in this image...". You find yourself asking questions regarding the image and trying to decipher the whole mystery that is in the image and kind of draw your own conclusion. And the compositions are not so abstract that you get lost trying to interpret them. If Mr. Crewdon needed all that complications in the pre-production to get his images to be that interesting, then more power to him.

I agree with most of the sentiments expressed above. I commend his process but I would have gone further. What I mean is, if I went to the trouble/expense that he seems to have gone through, I would have added a lot more intrigue into the image. I would have added a lot more areas of interest in the image that only become evident when you look at the image over and over. In this image above there's just the girl in the cafe, the guy walking away and the car rounding the corner. So for me, the production above is a bit over the top for the image that he created.

Meant to add, I'm a fan of Drew Gardner who creates similar surreal images but on a way more manageable budget, and, in my opinion, more interesting images.

Yes, it would seem that he is more of a painter than a photographer..... Just look at the shot from the video and then look at a bunch of Edward Hopper paintings.

I find it funny that so many of you go and say it's way too much, but then praise the end result. If the end is as fantastic as it is, how can it be too much?
And if you had the budget to do such extravagant set ups, wouldn't you? I'd give it a shot for sure. Sure, a lot of people can do a lot with less, but this is what he's chosen to do, and it works!
What you see in the image, is what he sees in his head before the image comes to life. And the fact that he's able to show viewers what's in his head as well as he does makes him an amazing photographer.

My question is how does someone get the money to fund setups like this? Are all of these works commissioned? If he can make it work for him then go for it.

Very weird comments. There is NO SUCH THING as "too much" when it comes to photography and art in general. Period.

This whole process looks like a lot of fun to me. I do nothing like this, in fact, I shoot boring product photography all week every week. You know what? 99% of my time is "directing" -- setting up the product and the product environment. Prep and post work is the majority of most photographers careers, the time actually spent pressing the shutter release is miniscule in comparison!

Great BTS video, IMO.

These comments are really intense.

While alot of his work looks pretty interesting I think if I saw Brief Encounter on it's own I wouldn't be drawn to it enough to look at the details that are trying to tell the story. Perhaps if one of his images that's better able to stand on it's own had been featured we would see the importance of the large production.

Fascinating and inciteful-both the man and the comments here.

From where I he an artist? Yes. A director? Yes. Does he have (a) vision? Absolutely. Is he a photographer? To me, no.

(If i do a rudimentary sketch of an idea for a sculpture, and then stand over someone saying "a little more here and a little less there" while he/she chips away at a piece of marble--i may be an artist, and i may be a visionary. but i'm not a sculptor!)

I love his work and the way he achieves it! I have his Twilight book and its one of my favorite photography books from my collection.