Brief:- Assignment three – A narrative photograph – A staged photograph. A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed and captured at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it; monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy or the old lady picture into an allegory that changes perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Gregory Crewdson.
Gregory Crewdson (1962)
Fig. 1. Untitled (Birth) (2007)
Initial thoughts – Because the assignment brief is in relation to a staged photograph then I know this is staged.
Taken at night, in winter, dark, dreary, steam on the inside of the window – however both subjects are not dressed for winter and this creates some dissonance. Even with heating on I would be better dressed in the winter. The edge of the car, the angle of the roof, attempt to make this look like a candid street photo. The snow is cleared from the path – trying to work out who actually clears snow so diligently from paths, I have no idea. Muted tones in bedroom, wallpaper from 70’s? Muted tones allow the green from the bed sheets to standout and this emphasises the subjects. The front door has a glass window pane and we can see through to the bathroom, and the toilet is visible. Has this been a home birth? Is this meant to be a photo taken immediately post-partum? Is that why the clothing looks in appropriate? There is a separation between mother and child, a physical distance that strongly suggests an emotional distance.
Primary props – green bedspread, neutral background, clothing, glass paned front door, bathroom and both lamps.
Secondary props – Car, snow, telephone, bedside drawers, painting – these give the setting, or stage.
Fig. 2. Untitled (Bus Fire) (2002)
Initial thoughts – Suburbs, bus has tipped over and smoke is coming out of the back, side street – this photo is a lie, the low centre of gravity in a bus, and more so because this is a single-decker, would mean the amount of force required to tip this bus over would be impossible to happen on such a small street. A roll-over from cornering is not possible in this setting as the corner that we can see would tip the bus the other direction, and even then there could not be sufficient speed for this to happen as the driver would have had to slow down to turn into the road before reaching the corner. There are no other vehicles and no angry mob, and although there are many youths around the bus, and one standing upon it, these would not have enough strength to over come the forces of gravity required to turn this bus over (a double-decker bus would take 77 people to push over, a single decker bus would take far more. Although the single decker would weigh less, the height of a double-decker means that it has a longer pivot and therefore requires less force to go beyond the 32 degree angle to break the centre of gravity. The angle point of no return for a single-decker is larger because of the shortened pivot (Morris, 2015). This is so obviously staged. Why would Crewdson go to the lengths of creating such an elaborate scene that has no bearing in real life in the environment that it is made? This appears to be a complete oversight on his behalf, which is a really useful tip for me. If I am going to create staged photos, then ensure the setting is appropriate for the context of the subject. I have a reluctance to further review this photo because of this.There is a disconnection between the nice, manicured, suburban neighbourhood, which backs onto a semi-desert mountainous region, during an evening that is moving towards dusk, which has a slightly romantic feel. Things are not as they seem, things are out of place, but this does not leave me with any feelings of a realistic dystopia
The first photo looks incredibly simple. I feel dismay, sorrow, sadness and loneliness when I look at it because it’s a scene that I can relate to. The emotion and disconnection that I felt in my childhood, I didn’t belong, I didn’t fit in, I was a stranger placed in a home and world that made no sense to me. A very cleverly envisioned, planned, staged and produced photo, and one that I believe many people can relate to on some level, from some period of their own life. The second photo makes no sense to me at all. I’m not saying it’s a bad photo, but I read it in a more literal sense because I cannot find the allegory. This is perhaps my shortfall rather than Crewdsons.
Figure 1 Crewdson, G; 2007; Untitled (Birth) [digital chromogenic print]; AT: http://www.americansuburbx.com/galleries/gregory-crewdson-beneath-the-roses (accessed on 16/06/2018)
Figure 2 Crewdson, G; 2002; Untitled (Bus Fire) [digital chromogenic print]; AT: https://imageobjecttext.com/2012/06/29/suburban-stories-tales-of-the-unexplained/ (accessed on 16/06/2018)
Feature Image Zeitgeist films; 2013; Gregory Crewdson at work (standing on ladder) on the set of “Untitled (Ophelia)”; AT: http://www.blouinartinfo.com/news/story/904087/qa-ben-shapiro-on-gregory-crewdson-brief-encounters (accessed on 16/06/20118)
Morris, R; 2015; How many people would it take to push over a double-decker bus if it was full of badgers?; Online AT: https://www.quora.com/How-many-people-would-it-take-to-push-over-a-double-decker-bus-if-it-was-full-of-badgers (accessed on 16/06/2018)