Composing

I watched a remarkable film today.

SBS screened Ben Shapiro’s film of Gregory Crewdson, Brief Encounters.

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It was a masterclass in observation and composition. The film took ten years to make.

I liked the idea that Gregory had about artists … each has a central story to explore and share.

His story as a photographer involves a creative process that evolves “through elaborate days and weeks of invention, design, and set-up”.

The epic production of these movie-like images is both intensely personal and highly public: they begin in Crewdson’s deepest desires and memories, but come to life on streets and soundstages in the hills towns of Western Massachusetts.

Gregory’s search for a perfect moment involves a great deal of anxiety. “Something always goes wrong … I don’t think there was ever a time when I did not wake up feeling absolutely sick to my stomach”.

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I was interesting to learn that one of the influences in Gregory’s work was Diane Arbus. Thanks to a post by Eric Kim, I found Diane Arbus’s Aperture Monograph. In it she talks about the importance of wrongness:

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I don’t know what good composition is. I mean I guess I must know something about it from doing it a lot and feeling my way into it and into what I like. Sometimes for me composition has to do with a certain brightness or a certain coming to restness and other times it has to do with funny mistakes. There’s a kind of rightness and wrongness and sometimes I like rightness and sometimes I like wrongness. Composition is like that.

Whenever I come across a body of work by artists, I am enthralled by their eye for detail and the opportunities they offer me to rethink my language of performance. Ben Shapiro’s film is a wonderful resource to stimulate this rethinking.

From Gregory and Diane I am going to think a lot more about detail and wrongness. I felt reassured by Diane’s observations:

The thing that’s important to know is that you never know. You’re always sort of feeling your way. One thing that struck me very early is that you don’t put into a photograph what’s going to come out. Or, vice versa, what comes out is not what you put in. I never have taken a picture I’ve intended. They’re always better or worse.
She concludes:
I do feel I have some slight corner on something about the quality of things. I mean it’s very subtle and a little embarrassing to me, but I really believe there are things which nobody would see unless I photographed them.

Photo Credits

Diane Arbus (Wikipedia)

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