RESEARCH POINT 2 COURSEWORK CONTINUED
A COMPARISON OF THE WORK OF CREWDSON, JEFF WALL, AND PHILIP-LORCA DiCORCIA
Research point 2
Crewdson’s work is deliberately cinematic in style…This visual strategy of elaborate direction, as in film, makes us lose our sense of reality and become absorbed with the alternative reality we’re faced with. Some commentator’s regard this is an effective method of Image-making, but for others it lacks the subtlety and nuance of Wall and DiCorcia’s work. What do you think?
Jeff Wall (b1946)
Cotton describes him as one of the leading practitioners of the staged photograph, saying that “his photographs are evidence of a detailed comprehension of how pictures work and are constructed that underpins the best tableau photography” (Cotton, 2015).
He was encouraged to be creative from a young age and studied drawing and painting. He later moved into conceptual art.
I have previously discussed on Jeff Wall’s image “Insomnia” (1994). Boothroyd deconstructs the image, describing how whilst the house is denoted by bricks and mortar, the comfort and familiarity of the home is clearly communicated by the use of props. The kitchen’s feeling of starkness and unease are connoted by its colours and lighting, all delivered to us via a series of signs and signifiers chosen and used by the photographer. The construction of the set gives clues what might have led up to this point in the image. She places the image in the wider context of film art and literature noting the artist’s influences and references (Marcel Duchamp, Dine Arbus, Eugene Atget, Walker Evans, Dan Graham, Thomas Struth and Andreas Gurski). She also comments on the format of the image (in this case big, 2m x 1.75m) and what this adds to the author’s intentions – I guess that he wanted his works to gain attention. Wall states this image was made in response to the saying, “when a prince doesn’t sleep well, a nation doesn’t either”, as he wondered what happened when people of no importance undergo similar torments. Cotton points to the compositional devices used which are “similar to renaissance painting, the angles and objects of a kitchen scene directing us through the picture and leading our understanding of the action and narrative” (Cotton, 2015). She also points out that the set of the image also has the look of a theatre set viewed from on stage.
When discussing his work Jeff Wall says “I begin by not photographing” (YouTube, 2017), as people relate to photographs by looking at what they see in a photo, and asking what’s going on. Observation is vital to him. His images evolve overtime as he creates them. He talks of a line of comparison, where his pictures have some relation to “normative photography”. Sometimes he admits that his images are simply a pleasing composition, “straight photography” where he works without people; then he looks for the relationship of shapes between them – photographic seeing. Some of his images are composites and use painterly techniques taking elements out or in, as an artist you know when it’s finished (YouTube, 2017). The images are initially unplanned and accidental and he is alert to the possibilities that his emotional response brings to an everyday situation. He says that photographs either capture an occurrence, or an absence of an occurrence and he believes that in photography both are equal. Surprise is the disclosure, seeing the potential of something unexpected; I wonder if this equates to the “Punctum”. Wall suggests his work is like snapshots and are documentary to a degree. “He describes his work as “cinematographic” re-creations of everyday moments he has witnessed, but did not photograph at the time” (Hagan, 2017). By not photographing he can reshape to a degree with freedom, this recreation of his memories is central to his work. He says that art is about having he freedom to do what you want.
In his image “The nightclub” he replicated the location as it was impractical to photograph in one evening – a completely constructed reality. He doesn’t think this adds any artist distinction to the photograph but that it was just necessary, and this artifice should be unknown as I’s not important.
(The Brooklyn Quarterly, 2017).
“Every subject or group of subjects is fully occupied in her own sphere of the photo; unaware of the camera or each other. Most of the subjects are in mid-movement of some quotidian kind—yet they are all completely still, like mannequins” (The Brooklyn Quarterly, 2017).
He also works referring to the art of the past, as when a piece of art has struck him in a particular way just as a street scene would. Such as “Invisible man” which was the creation of an accident of reading “the Prologue” (Ralph Ellison, 1999-2001). It’s interesting that he talks of various starting points that can occur in his everyday life, from walking, to reading, to music to paintings. He believes that the viewer through their own associations form connections with images and make their own meaning (YouTube, 2017).
Wall’s work is grounded more in reality than Crewdson’s, sometimes fictional but to me less disturbing. Unlike Crewdson he constructs realities to recreate them with some alteration, but not to create from scratch.
Philip-Lorca DiCorcia (b1951)
His series, Hustlers, Streetwork, Heads, a Storybook, Life and Lucky Thirteen have a sense of drama and distinctive use of lighting. In the 1990s his Hustler’s series was images of male prostitutes in LA, paying them to be photographed. It was originally exhibited titled “strangers” labelled with their hometown, their name, their age and the money that they charged. He was depicting real people in contrived situations “the picture occupy an ambiguous territory between fact and fiction…extending the boundaries of documentary photography” (Lubow, 2017.)
His images are similar to film stills, with their preparation and theatrical direction whilst the authenticity of his subjects relate more to the traditions of documentary photography (Time.com, 2017). MoMA’s former Chief Curator Peter Galassi describes as “operating in the space between postmodern fiction and documentary fact.” (Time.com, 2017). His dramatic use of light is cinematic as is Crewdson’s.
Wall and DiCorcia differ from Crewdson is that their images often appear very normal and are not so obviously staged. They are however usually similarly elaborately prepared and staged just like Crewdson’s; some of Wall’s have taken over a year to photograph and use digital imaging techniques to create composite images (Golden, 2013.)
For Wall, DiCorcia and Crewdson “the labour and skill involved I reconstructing such a scene” is akin to a painter’s (Cotton, 2015 p 51). They all bring together actors, assistants and technicians, as cast and crew to create their tableaus rather like “a film director who imaginatively harnesses collective fantasies and realities” (Cotton, 2015 p 51).
Crewdson and DiCorcia both use dramatic cinematic forms of light, often filming at dusk or in Crewdson’s case the dark. This is not to mimic cinema stills but just to create meaning and to help tableau photography to be an imaginative blending of fact and fiction.
Wall and Crewdson’s photographs may seem more subtle than Crewdson’s as they are usually grounded in some part of reality that is easier to access by their visual clues and references than Crewdson’s work; They are also more akin to documentary photography. Curiously when Wall replicates a location to change its shape or gain control of practical issues he does it only as it is necessary not as and artistic statement. I definitely can relate better to their work than Crewdson’s.
My link to my exhibition visit to Cathedral of he pines: https://nkssite2.wordpress.com/category/cathedral-of-the-pines/
Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.
Golden, R. (2013). Masters of photography. London: Goodman.
Lubow, A. (2017). Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Hustlers’ Return to New York. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/25/arts/design/philip-lorca-dicorcias-hustlers-return-to-new-york.html [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
O’Hagan, S. (2017). Jeff Wall: ‘I’m haunted by the idea that my photography was all a big mistake’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/03/jeff-wall-photography-marian-goodman-gallery-show [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
SFMOMA. (2017). Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Eddie Anderson, 21 Years Old, Houston, Texas, $20, 1990. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/93.195 [Accessed 26 Jul. 2017].
Tate.org.uk. (2017). Jeff Wall: room guide, room 6. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/jeff-wall/room-guide/jeff-wall-room-6 [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017]
The Brooklyn Quarterly. (2017). Postcard from San Francisco: Pier 24 Photography – The Brooklyn Quarterly. [online] Available at: http://brooklynquarterly.org/postcard-from-san-francisco-pier-24-photography/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
Time.com. (2017). Trade: Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s Hollywood Hustlers. [online] Available at: http://time.com/3803327/trade-philip-lorca-dicorcias-hollywood-hustlers-drug-addicts-and-drifters/ [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
WeAreOCA. (2017). Beneath the surface. [online] Available at: https://weareoca.com/photography/beneath-the-surface/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].
YouTube. (2017). Jeff Wall Interview: Pictures Like Poems. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkVSEVlqYUw [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.