Panoramic photographs of a desolate New England town look like dystopian oil paintings
At first glance, you'd assume these sombre works are of an imagined dystopian America, created using acrylics and oil paints. They are, in fact, ambitious, panoramic photographs by Gregory Crewdson. Complex and skilful, they are the result of two years of hard effort.
Considered to be the undisputed master of staged photography, Gregory's latest series, An Eclipse of Moths, offers an empathetic and critical reflection on his own country, currently mired in a health and political crisis. As we await the results of the presidential campaign, we see outdoor scenes of a small, desolate town in post-Industrial New England, perhaps hinting at the fragility of the world, brokenness, and a collective yearning for redemption and a quest for transcendence.
This is the kind of storytelling we've come to expect from Gregory. For more than 25 years, his cinematic and atmospheric photography is the result of a creative process similar to film production with all its logistical and technical complexity. From storyboard and a team of technicians to the choice of locations, sophisticated lighting and actors' poses.
Gregory spends months travelling around his chosen city before finding the various places that serve as his sets. This time, we see a taxi depot, an abandoned factory, a concrete burial vault, and deserted backyards. It's quite a change from his usual choice of intimate interiors that made him famous; now we see urban landscapes as the backdrop, which are both grandiose and disturbing.
The action seems to be multiplied by several focal points and ambiguous scenes: two coffins abandoned on the road while an empty stretcher waits on the lawn; a motorist immobilised by fallen traffic lights while a man stares at a baby's bottle; a homeless man facing a puddle of rose petals while idle youngsters hang around in front of a container. Every detail, street name or accessory casts an unexpected light on the palpable loneliness of the characters.
These motionless, lost protagonists aim to evoke the moths chosen for Gregory's series title, on show at Templon in Paris from 7 November until 23 January 2021. Why? The gallery explains it, "He chose the image of an eclipse of moths to evoke the phenomenon whereby the insects, drawn by the artificial lights of the city, cluster together and lose their bearings. A metaphor for our contemporary disorientation, these works subtly question the vulnerability of the human condition and the paradoxes of the American dream. Never didactic, they leave the viewer free to imagine the stories hidden beneath the surface and dream of other possibilities."
Born in 1962 in Brooklyn, New York, Gregory Crewdson is a graduate of SUNY Purchase and the Yale University School of Art, where he is now director of graduate studies in photography. His work has been widely exhibited and collected by museums worldwide. This will be his fourth exhibition with the gallery in Paris.