Light We Like: Gregory Crewdson

UPDATE: Adds a second video, with lots more detail, after the jump.

I find myself completely mesmerized by Gregory Crewdson's photos. The light, the narrative, the light, the tension, the light -- well, you get the idea.

When you look at his photos, bear in mind that he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like you do. Only then he spends the whole day taking over entire city blocks, directing his technical folks, manipulating casts of "figures" and, well, never actually "holding the camera," as he notes.

Gregory does not work "in a studio". He works "on a sound stage. He has a set designer, an art director, a lighting tech and, um, a director of photography. Who is not named Gregory.

But he sure does make facilitate some amazing photographs. This stuff in this video is just about the polar opposite from the low-impact, minimal gear ethic that is embraced by photographers who do not happen have access to, say, an entire town and James Cameron's lighting truck.

But the results always makes me think about how I could adapt some of his techniques to my dinky little SB's. (Note that the video is briefly NSFW, but in an artsy way.)

Second video, after the jump.


More Crewdson photos here. (Some also NSFW.)

Further reading:

:: Gregory Crewdson: Beneath the Roses ::
:: Twilight: The Photographs of Gregory Crewdson ::


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Blogger Steh said...

the big question is how does he finance shoots of that proportion?

July 03, 2008 1:20 AM  
Anonymous steven noreyko said...

Who is this guy working for? I'm astounded he can spend five weeks on a sound stage or "take-over" a town just to make a handful of images. Spendy these shoots must be.

July 03, 2008 2:29 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I'll admit that for me personally, I don't get it.
The photographs are great but I question his role as 'photographer'. I mean he doesn't even hold the camera! He's more of an art-director. But then again he does sell his prints for thousands and thousands of dollars, so I guess he's onto something!

July 03, 2008 2:34 AM  
Blogger Isaac Viel said...

I love his work. I saw that entire show on TV a few weeks ago - good stuff. I wish they would play make more of them.

July 03, 2008 4:08 AM  
Anonymous Charlie Cello said...

On a movie set (on location or on a sound stage), the primary function of the DP (director of photography) is to realize the director's vision. With rare exception, directors do not handle cameras.

Gregory Crewdson isn't facilitating photographs, he's directing single frame movies.

July 03, 2008 4:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That guy is really like a movie director. Having a certain idea in his head and then gathering folks around him who can actually achieve it.

This way he can concentrate 100% on the storystelling apect of his photos which is, considering the outcome, not a bad idea.

So if you're getting jealous about his light, give the credit to his DOP. ;-)


July 03, 2008 4:11 AM  
Blogger Darien Chin said...

Let me be the first to say, this both inspires me, awes me, and scares me....all at the same time. The sheer scale of the productions overwhelm me and make me wonder if I have enough will to ever do something even remotely close to this. The images are like little pieces of magic, each with it's own distinct footprint. It's just so perfect in ways that it makes me think of a miniature or model world. Perfect moments, captured in perfect light and balanced so finely that even the slightest change would cause a tipping point towards degradation. I have to say it's a completely alien concept to me, where a non-photographer is the key component (or so it seems from the video) to the success of a shot. But it's a revelation in as many ways as it is shocking. I have to admit that after viewing this...I feel very very small. But, I can still appreciate that, knowing the work and scale of what I have just seen.

July 03, 2008 5:01 AM  
Anonymous mikemitcham said...

I recently went to see his expo in the White Cube gallery, London. It's fantastic art and all the more intriguing to hear him talk about it. Would recommend to anyone hearing what he has to say and then going along to one near you, or picking up one of his books. The images are very large so better in person.

July 03, 2008 5:02 AM  
Blogger Gregoire said...

The complete control of lighting is very studio and movie set like in production value... But you sure can't argue with those spectacular results!

July 03, 2008 5:04 AM  
Anonymous Richard Cave said...

I have spent two years looking for this photographers name, he displayed these photos in london athe the white cube gallery. The prints actually fill the wall they are massive and immersive.

Thank you for posting these on here. He was one photographer that thinks the way I do with high production values.

Also the models are sometimes big hollywood stars, you have to look carefully to realise who they are.

Cheers David

Once again you have come up trumps


July 03, 2008 5:23 AM  
Anonymous Jesper Revald said...

Seriously I don't think the pictures are great enough to warrent the huge efforts that are put into them. It seems more like people are breathtaken by the fact that the images require weeks, if not months of work. It shouldn't be the technical stuff behind the scenes that makes a good picture.

Sure the lighting is cool, but come on - is it really that much cooler than a well coordinated picture by some of the other great photographers out there? Heck, I think I've seen more interesting photos from amateurs on flickr :-)

By the way, who pays for productions like these? Lottery winners?

July 03, 2008 5:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's how it's done!

July 03, 2008 6:21 AM  
Anonymous LightningPaul said...

This man was also in the last part of the TV documentary "The Genius of Photography".
He uses the same techniques as in making a movie, except he makes pictures. Afterwards they get heavily photoshopped. A nice example is in the making of the "brief encounter". Look at the differences between 5'18" and 5'22".

July 03, 2008 6:41 AM  
Anonymous gregor said...

impressive work.
i first heard about him in the bbc docu "genius of photography".

July 03, 2008 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Bernie (UK) said...

I went to the site to see more. There are some really extraordinary images. They remind me of paintings but are clearly photographs with really cool light. I'd never heard of him before so thanks for the heads up.

July 03, 2008 6:52 AM  
Anonymous nicolas said...

Gregory crewdson always has incredible light. It gives a special and recognisable touch to all of his pictures.
And you forgot to mention that when he takes over a whole block, he asks the electrical company to shot down the public lights becaus of color temperature!! i've wished i could do that so many times!!

July 03, 2008 6:59 AM  
Anonymous Michael Gowin said...

These are some amazingly executed images. I wonder--how does a guy make a living doing this? I mean, if you're making films, you've got the box office and DVD rentals and sales. But this? Wow.

July 03, 2008 7:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crewdson isn't a photographer, just a director.

July 03, 2008 7:27 AM  
Anonymous cornishbob said...

I have to ask the obvious, but is he a photographer?

They are beatiful pictures and well lit but surely hes a Steven Spielberg rather than a David Bailey. The only diffence between him and a movie director is that theres no sound being captured. Speilberg sets up the shot but someone else captures it, someone elses name goes on the credits as camera man.

July 03, 2008 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the video is a part of BBC's genius of photography TV series

July 03, 2008 7:51 AM  
Anonymous djon said...

I saw a major exhibition of Crewdson's work in NYC a couple of months ago.

The huge prints (30X40 at least) were wonderful, comparison, the exceptionally high quality large format book barely works (though it's one of the best photo books I've seen, and I want one).

Think of a 70mm projection of Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago, compared to a video. The video's are great because I've seen the movies in proper theatres, both on first release and on re-release, each a decade or two later.

I think someone who just sees the video (or Crewdson's book) will miss an ultimate experience. (sorry for the ramble).

Crewdson has a specific vision and diagram in advance of each shot. Each shot evolves just like it would in a movie, mostly because he's using actors (not models)..and on location as frequently as soundstages.

He spends weeks driving around and scouting locations.

When he's on location he dresses the set and lights it as thoroughly as a Hollywood team would...many lights, booms, no compromises.

He's not a low-budget, underground film maker type. I'd love to see the budgets for his shots.

July 03, 2008 8:27 AM  
Blogger gridlock said...


Beutiful lights..

July 03, 2008 8:36 AM  
Blogger Misha said...

While I think the result of Gregory's work looks amazing (at least from technical viewpoint), I think the way he does it is overkill.

Shutting down a portion of a town, waiting several hours for the snow to pile up, having many people crew of assistants, art directors and even directors of photography to take 1 picture leaves me thinking: was all of this necessary? Couldn't he have expressed the same ideas in a less excessive manner?

To me it almost seems that he's bringing the whole big-screen movie industry to the photography world. With its production crew and its budget. It just makes his photography more commercial to me.

But on a positive note, his lighting does look stunning =)

July 03, 2008 8:57 AM  
Blogger Sergei Rodionov said...

Interesting material, but you got to ask yourself - what is in there, that you never can achieve with smaller gear? Moving aside issues of blocking streets and so on.

Directing people? Getting light where you want it to be? For me - "close encounter" that they show - is no more complex or cool than what Joe did in his last firefighter's truck shot (or old laser gun shot from Canada, if we go for smoke machines) or what David did with his shots of helicopters (or heck - that Florida sea side shot from few days ago).

Its all about how you can visualize things. Rest - is not such a big deal. Visualizing what you got in your head - that is where i would put me hat off for the guy.

He got this imagination thing in his brain that certainly is WAY cool. You can not really learn that. Got to be born with it.

July 03, 2008 9:12 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

NSFW? Where? I must have missed it.

July 03, 2008 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if his eBay trigger is the modded version cause those lights are spread out far and wide.

July 03, 2008 9:19 AM  
Blogger Ian said...

There is a great contemporary-art article on Gregory Crewson on DailyServing here -

July 03, 2008 10:02 AM  
Blogger Nate said...

it's a lot like Edward Hopper, except Edward Hopper did his own work rather than putting his name on top of the production (done by others) in much the same way as Walt Disney or Yertle The Turtle. If you are a "photographer", you don't need a cameraman. if you are a "designer" you don't need an art director. so what exactly does this guy do? bark orders and look important?

July 03, 2008 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Steve G Bisig said...

I've seen the entire episode on OvationTV. Apparently all his photos are presold prior to the shoot and go for rather large amounts of money.

July 03, 2008 10:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be very difficult to judge the quality of these images from thumbnail sizes on a u-tube video. This is an 8 X 10 view camera and the detail these cameras are capable of recording is nothing short of amazing. You can almost photograph the air between you and your subject. Those here who have spoken about seeing the actual prints have a much better perspective to judge the quality of the artwork.

Crewdson says he never "holds" the camera. I don't know of anyone who "holds" an 8X10 view camera. That doesn't make him any less of a photographer. You just don't go snapping an 8X10 frivolously like we do with our digitals and chimp every frame till you get it right according to the back of the camera.

July 03, 2008 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Scott said...

And he is on the faculty for Yale's MFA program I believe.

I do find it a little odd that he doesn't pull his own darkslide. I own Beneath the Roses and the prints are beautiful!

July 03, 2008 11:31 AM  
Anonymous three_am said...

Giving credit where it is due, the photographs still reflect Mr. Crewdson's vision. How is what he does any different from a photographer with a dozen assistances? Is pressing the shutter release the only thing that defines a photographer?

Granted, in this case, it *IS* the equipment (and crew) that makes a difference. How many of you have an image in your head but aren't able to re-produce it exactly? If you can throw enough resources and talented people to realize your vision, wouldn't you?

July 03, 2008 11:50 AM  
Blogger Ben Roberts said...

This look at Crewdson's work does a great job of articulating the bits of work to create a great image that all of us do internally as individual photographers.

We all have set designers, directors of photography, lighting techs and camera ops inside our heads, all coming together to make an image. Even if you don't construct a single thing, when you set up an image you're designing the world inside the photo, however small or limited that world might be. Crewdson's worlds are just on another scale, but the concepts still apply - take a visionary idea for a scene, make the scene be alive, get compelling models, light it well, take a good picture of it, do good post work.

Looking at someone like Crewdson who has taken the process of making an image from a craftsman's single role to an industrialized model where every task has a specialist is a great way to break out the elements that go into making great photos.

Does that make it not art? I don't much care, it looks cool as hell and has reaffirmed a shift in thinking I was already making about my own admittedly low-calibre work.

I already know that since I can't fire the "lighting guy" inside my head, I am going to have to work really hard with him, probably over years, to get him to see light in the way I as a "director" see it. And that's (albeit somewhat schizophrenically) an exciting idea.

Thanks as always for a thought provoking post.

July 03, 2008 12:20 PM  
Anonymous Eddy said...

Looks like nowadays you need director of photography, fifty people crew, famous artists to pose for you and a guy to hold your camera to be a real photographer.
No thanks, i think I'll pass.

July 03, 2008 12:32 PM  
Blogger Oliver said...

Crewdson isn't a photographer, just a director."

Who gets more recognition of a film? The director or the camera man?

As a photographer, we have to be both the director and camera man. And let me tell you, it's the directing part that's hard. Photography isn't merely nailing all the technical aspects; it's also envisioning how all the components will fit together.

July 03, 2008 12:42 PM  
Anonymous Tarjei99 said...

RSS problems

I can't get the Strobist RSS feed to work in pageflakes. There is no such problem with the LightingMods blog (also on blogspot). So I guess that there is some misconfiguration on your blog.


July 03, 2008 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Rob G. said...

Nice pictures indeed. BUT I'm not a fan of this photographer, it's not that hard for anyone with a bit of imagination to make similiar pictures with all those ppl working for you. And his ideas are great but nothing genius. I've seen similiar pictures done by just one single photographer, ok maybe in a smaller scale.

July 03, 2008 2:17 PM  
Blogger Alessandro Rosa said...

The product of Crewdson's work is a photograph and we call a person/artist who makes a photograph a photographer.

Back in the film days for the most part, we would send our work off to a lab to be developed and printed. If it weren't for the lab, the likelihood that those images would have ever been seen are slim. Did that make us any less worthy of calling ourselves photographers?

It is his idea, his vision that is being represented in these photographs. It isn't much different from when a sculptor hires a foundry to cast a large scale version of a work that they have done smaller and sometimes in a different medium.

In his Wikipedia entry it says that he studied photography and the State University of New York - Purchase and received a Master of Fine Arts from Yale. So as his training is in photography and his chosen media is the photograph, I would say he can more than justify calling himself a Photographer even if he doesn't press the shutter button at the end of the day.

July 03, 2008 2:18 PM  
Anonymous lenny said...

His work reminds me of Storm Thorgerson's work. Even the look and feel of the people in Gregory's work looks the same as the people in Thorgerson's work.

Check out

Hey David, how about working on getting an interview with Mr. Thorgerson?

July 03, 2008 2:25 PM  
Blogger Andrew Kraker said...

I remember watching this on TV a while back.
I dont understand how he can make so much off from one shoot. Who are the people buying these photos?

July 03, 2008 2:49 PM  
Blogger emrphoto said...

Finance-wise, from what I have heard, he only takes between 6-10 photos during the shoot. The demand for his work is such that he sells them each for between $200,00-$500,000, and that finances future projects. And the circle continues....

Ed R.

July 03, 2008 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm going to argue that this is not photography any more than painting is photography. That's not to say this isn't great art. It is! But it's not photography. It's more akin to directing a single-frame movie.

July 03, 2008 4:28 PM  
Blogger Bowen Photography said...

Yeah, I think calling him a photographer is a bit much. He did even pull the divider out of the film plate to expose the film!!

He may be a photograph director but that's it. Of course this is MHO.

July 03, 2008 4:36 PM  
Blogger rcoder said...

You absolutely cannot get a sense for the scale and impact of Crewdson's work from a computer screen. Go see his prints in a gallery -- they fill an entire wall, and are absolutely packed with detail, depth, and tension.

Saying that a YouTube "making of" video about his work leaves you unimpressed is liking saying you don't like opera because a scratch AM radio broadcast of Carmen left you underwhelmed. Of course, there's no guarantee that you'd like live opera either, but you're not really experiencing the work in the right medium before judging it.

It's not the style of photography that I would choose for myself, but I can't help but be impressed. He tells as much story in a single still image as most skilled film directors could in ten minutes.

July 03, 2008 4:53 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

His pictures make me think of Stephen King's stories. Perfectly ordinary towns and people, but there's something a little off, a little creepy, just under the surface.
But I have to agree, he's more of a director than a photographer, but even so his art is amazing.

July 03, 2008 5:00 PM  
Anonymous Jason Schulz said...


So here we are, on a blog dedicated to off camera light, and we're having a dictionary argument about who is and who isn't a photographer. And why? Because almost no-one who has responded can see themselves doing what he does on the scale he does. Joe McNally with 37 speedlights? That's ok, 'cause that's just me with 35 more. And I've got a part time assistant, but crap, my own DOP, and a $2mill budget for the shoot? I can't imagine that...

Crewdson has the ideas, vision, commercial nous and the drive to pull it all off. He has the approval of his peers, and the career history to make his customers comfortable with his proposals.

He took his 10,000th photograph a very long time ago.

Can we see the light yet?

July 03, 2008 8:05 PM  
Blogger Wink of an eye Digital said...

Interesting...he is right in my yard Pittsfield Ma shoot is just up the road fom me

July 03, 2008 8:20 PM  
Anonymous rolly magpayo said...

Im impressed by crewdson. his style of photography is not for everyone. but i think we all should pay respect to his ability to interpret his visualized ideas. I used to dislike photos that is overly processed with photoshop using treextures and filters and other techniques. But it is the digital age, we all have to evolve. Leonardo da Vinci painted under oil lamp or sometimes candle light but he did the greatest paintings. Would you blame a painter for painting inside a well-lit studio? As photographers and artists we should use all things available to realize our ideas. Crewdson is like that. He hace all the resources and he's using it to realize his ideas, and he's getting paid for a large sum of money to finance his future ideas. I still dont like his style, but some people does, including his RICH patrons. Dont get envious. Everyone can learn something from him.

July 03, 2008 10:35 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

Personally... while his photos look nice... they look really processed in Photoshop or some other software.

I will admit, I have never shot large format (only 35mm/medium format), but looking at all of his photos they seem to have this "almost painted" look... Maybe LF looks like that normally... But because of the large amounts of processing, I don't value the work himself or his team does as much.

Now look at Chase Jarvis, David Tejada, Joe McNally, etc, etc -- they also work with fairly large clients, they also have "vision" and execute it well -- but to me, their photos are real - not "painted with processing".

To each their own... if you like his work - cool... but I am not in that group ;-)

July 03, 2008 11:11 PM  
Anonymous Dennis said...

He must have a lot of resources available to practice his craft at this large-scale level. Reminds me of Christo, the artist who wrapped trees and buildings as an artistic expression. :-)

July 03, 2008 11:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I try to view the embedded video, it goes to a black screen, reporting the video is no longer available? Anyone know whats happened?


July 04, 2008 4:45 AM  
Blogger Alven said...

Thanks for the inspiration! I for one can't wait to read the follow-up post, where we get to learn how to do Crewdson's lighting with 4 Speed lights, some DIY's, determination and lots of elbow grease... Right?

July 04, 2008 6:25 AM  
Anonymous Andy said...

hey strobist, i love you guys :P

and i want to go into the running for the youngest strobist lol i'm 15 :)....

this is a personal message to you david.. :)

July 04, 2008 7:04 AM  
Blogger cliquephotodesign said...

The guy is making a living "for now" This guy has the ability to persuade the upper class that he is this weeks "in thing" Kudos to him. All of has the "ability" to do the same work. The question is , do we have the drive to make it happen. I think Senior Dave should challenge all of us to make a shot like Crewdson and show the public that it can be done bigger and better with out Crewdson's "old movie school techniques" and large governmental type budget. All of his shots are HOLLYWOOD, neet to look at but too polished to say WOW. We can achieve the same style and maybe offer Crewdson's investors/suckers a better price and better photo.

Here is another thought.
Ansel Adams was a large format "bad photographer " but a great dark room magician. Where does that put him in the "photographic" world ?
Mr. Dave?

July 04, 2008 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Will said...


Reminds me of a book called 'Remainder', if anyone else has read it.

July 04, 2008 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Waldo said...

For those criticizing, anyone can take a picture, few can make art.

Who cares if he's not taking the picture or setting up the lighting and probably doesn't even have the technical knowledge of that stuff. This guy is an artist. He's no different than someone with a paint brush putting stuff to canvas, paper, wall, etc.

His art is awesome. From what I saw on his site, it reminds me of Norman Rockwell. Snapshots of life, trying to convey a story. Only instead of paint he uses photography and a team of people.

Who cares about the massive scale of the thing. I really don't understand the complaints about "shutting down a town". Just because you guys either don't have the cash to pay a city or town to do that or maybe just don't have the backbone for it, doesn't mean you should criticize someone else for having a vision and bringing it to life.

I'd love to see his stuff in person and will now be keeping an eye out for his name if he ever hits my area or I'm fortunate enough to be some place his art is showing.

David, thank you for sharing, this was an awesome, worthwhile post.

July 04, 2008 11:13 AM  
Blogger Rosh Photographer said...

I agree, its more like a movie production. Great ideas. It's about mood and creating the mood with light.

A beautiful Blue morning or evening is available to everyone.

Beautiful images may be created on a smaller scale with a 4-5 flashes and a few gels, but you would really have to plan it out.


July 04, 2008 11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

absolutely NOT impressed.

kick a stone and you'll hit a hundred thousand billion of art directors/production designers/creative directors who, given the bottomless budget, resources and people, will put similar or better images.

this is to me just like a (bad) painter with an idea.. who needs someone to draw the picture for him.

learn to paint or quit. Sorry.


July 04, 2008 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Majromax said...

I'm reminded of the "90% rule." To slightly mangle Tom Cargill (Bell Labs):

The first 90% of the picture accounts for the first 90% of the work. The remaining 10% of the picture accounts for the other 90% of the work.

Like his style or not, Crewdson is definitely giving the full 180%.

(As a geek: Large format like that? Holy leaping potatoes!)

July 04, 2008 1:35 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Ryan Schude is someone who is doing these type of shots on a smaller scale. Check out his Flickr stream:

I haven't asked him what his methods are or what his equipment is but it is a hell of a lot smaller than Crewdson. Maybe follow up with him?

Thanks for doing this post, btw. I know I asked for it and I am sure I was not the only one.


July 04, 2008 5:22 PM  
Anonymous John T said...

To me, Crewdson's Hollywood production values are kind of off-putting. I like the work of Philip Lorca-DiCorcia, who's images often have a similar narrative tension and use careful lighting to achieve a sense of heightened reality and a bit of mystery -- but on a much more down to earth scale. Strobists could probably get some inspiration and learn a lot by studying his photos.

July 04, 2008 5:58 PM  
Blogger Bowen Photography said...


Thanks for the link to Ryan's work. I really enjoyed it.

To me it is similar to Crewdson's work but has a much more personal feel to it.


July 04, 2008 6:28 PM  
Blogger chrisgraphics said...

He looks like Nicholas Cage.

July 04, 2008 7:48 PM  
Anonymous Marcos Rivera said...

That entire series on Ovation is inspiring on so many levels. He does that work because his limited edition prints more than pay for the production costs. I look at him as a still photo director more than a photographer, but it is inspiring nonetheless.

July 04, 2008 8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Crewdson's shoots are financed by a couple of galleries, who then turn around and sell prints for many thousands of dollars. They're not million dollar shoots...merely a couple hundred thousand usually.

You can also get "behind the scenes" prints, while not the polish of the other product, are very nice themselves. These run about $1000-$2000.

As for his models being "big hollywood stars", that would be the first time I've ever heard of that...

In any case, for those wondering why he gets all the credit, its because while he may have a crew setting things up (I tell my assistants to set up the lights too...), the intent of the picture all starts with him.

The master painters didn't paint most of their own paintings either. Their assistants did all that.

But bash all you want. At the end of the day you'll still be the dude on a website scratching your head, and he'll be selling beautiful work.

July 04, 2008 9:26 PM  
Anonymous Tom Hayton said...

Hello strobists...

On the opposite end of the production scale, I think everyone will find this footage of location shooting in China very interesting.

A pair of photographers are travelling the country, shooting in rivers, down coal mines- all over the place!

Watch them set up a soft box in the middle of a river!:

failed shoot in a market:

shooting environmentalists and fashionistas:

shooting the police:

There are so many take aways from these videos I will leave you all to discover them! Enjoy...

July 05, 2008 4:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's more like Dale Chihuly than Spielberg.

July 05, 2008 8:58 AM  
Blogger Danie said...

I'm a commercial photographer - shooting for money and so on - I do wonder also how he finances it, but I really admire him for the scale he thinks in. He's beyond "I took the picture" to a more progressive role of simply getting people into his vision and making it happen by all their skills. This is great - if big rigs is what he needs to do it - great for him. I shoot small, work small and only have 1 employee apart from moi. BUT - I respect this guy for the scale and sense of possibility he works in. Well done.

July 05, 2008 10:26 AM  
Blogger KK said...

So much work for a photo. But damn, those photos look good. And surreal, mysterious, CREEPY for some reason...

July 05, 2008 2:10 PM  
Anonymous Abba Richman said...

Give me $300,000, a whole town, five weeks, a DOP, fifty assorted assistants, a gifted PR firm, and Abba Richman prints will sell for tens of thousands of $$$$$$$. Solid No-Nonsense Money back guarantee. This is artsy fartsy BS at it's best.

July 06, 2008 1:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I completely disagree with Abba Richman. Even if most photogs are given everything Crewdson asks for, the vast majority will come away with crap or something no better than images they already create. As others above have hinted, Crewdson has a vision for each photo and manipulates fine details until that vision is exposed on film. Just because he uses a whole production team whereas most of us use no one or maybe one or two assistants takes nothing away from his vision and execution.

July 06, 2008 10:49 AM  
Blogger PhotoJoe said...

Apparently, this guy has found a niche clientele who is very wealthy and enjoys photos that probably don't hold widespread appeal. More power to him.

July 06, 2008 2:29 PM  
Blogger Nate said...

"He's more like Dale Chihuly than Spielberg."

chihuly used to actually make stuff. crewdson never made anything. his committee makes things and he puts on a seal of approval and a price tag. he's a hack, more bob ross or thomas kinkaid--"a painter of lite", not light

July 06, 2008 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Eric said...

A hack?


Um, his photos are by any ration measure significant undertakings. And they sell -- before they are even made -- for as much a six figures.

You may not like his style, but to call him a hack speaks more about you than it does Mr. Crewdson.


July 06, 2008 4:41 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

There was a great article on him in a recent JPG Magazine issue:


July 06, 2008 6:42 PM  
Blogger Daniel Han said...

They're OK photos - but they aren't great compared to all the work goes in; just like those Ferragamo shoes or LV bags.

Why do people buy his photos at such prices? It's because they're overhyped and people want to feel "special" from having a "oh-this-picture-had-so-much-work-in-it-just-for-me".
It's almost TOO capitalistic.

But, at the end of the day, a photo will be judged as itself and by itself.

Great for him for making lots of money, though.

July 06, 2008 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been a big fan for quite some time.
I had considered purchasing one of Crewdson's works, but had a hard time getting past how I would feel as I looked at this strange piece in my home every day!

You really need to see his early work to fully understand him today. He started off as much as a model maker as a photographer -- he built intricate (and somewhat gruesome) dioramas with model houses, fake skies, and lots of dead insects & stuffed birds. Then he lit and photographed them (himself, I'm pretty sure).

Then he spent a summer in western Massachusetts and somehow convinced his neighbors to do whacky things like paving their street with turf, lighting wrecked cars on fire, etc. And things progressed from there. (BTW, I think he also has done some commercial work for HBO -- a Six Feet Under print campaign a few years back.)

Anyway, although the end results of his work is a picture, I think it is necessary to think of him less as a photographer, but more as a 'scene-maker'. In some ways he is not unlike Matthew Barney (though he makes mostly movies instead of exclusively stills.)

July 06, 2008 11:50 PM  
Blogger TheCheyne said...

OMG his shoots are epic and the results are flabbergasting!

Thanks for bringing him to my attention!


July 07, 2008 12:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow... reading some of the comments here really gives you some insight about just how much people who lack commercial success wants to lynch anyone who manages to achieve it. I bet if Crewdson was a struggling up-and-comer who financed his operation with a 2nd mortgage on his house, everyone here would happily cheer him on. The day you start earning some serious money from your artwork is the day everyone stops being your friend it seems. Sad and pathetic.

July 07, 2008 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Gustavo Pellizzon said...

I think that he can be a movie photographer. It would be so much easier. His light is great, but whats the meaning of all this gear? People seems freeze in his photos. A good light work and nothing more...

July 07, 2008 2:49 PM  
Blogger Daniel Lachman said...

I'm have to go against the flow and say that I really don't like Gregory Crewdson's stuff. I

Does he really need all that technical perfection to explain the stories in his photos? For me, I see technical perfection as Crewdson's main goal - and his photo ideas and content as a small side note in his work.

I'm really convinced his photos are more about technical excellence than artistic merit. Do you really need all that crew to show your idea? I think crisp hollywood style lit pictures are a fad.

July 08, 2008 2:17 AM  
Blogger kiki said...

his work is incredible, i love it. he approaches the photography using motion picture technique, his pictures indeed look like little movies. a big fan...

July 08, 2008 8:50 AM  
Anonymous Eric said...

Great debate. I have enjoyed reading everyone's POV.

I chalk much of this up to marketing. He certainly knows how to make himself stand out from the rest of the herd and that helps him in business a lot.

Having not seen the actual prints or a great portion of his work, I cannot say much about the images except that the light was very cool in some of them, and not all that exceptional in others, tho not to say it was bad lighting, just not like some of the other images.

I sit on the fence regarding the director / photographer discussion. I see both sides of this story and agree with points made on both fronts. Just can't quite figure where I stand. But I do have a hard time calling someone a photographer if they don't have any interaction with the equipment.

July 08, 2008 10:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, David, seeing his images always makes me think the same. A post on how we might go about starting to get similar results out of strobes would be more helpful than one simply showing those who (incredibly) have never heard of him.

July 08, 2008 7:10 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Stunning photographs, both in scope and emotion, but that said, I think the "behind the scenes" info ruined it for me. I just can't help thinking of all the incredible photos I've seen that were much better (in my opinion) and shot with little or no budget.

He's obviously a master of his craft, but if I'm going to pay $200,000 for a work of art, it's not going to be one of these!

July 08, 2008 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

As interesting as the techniques and the sheer scale of production are, I look at the finished work and think "why". The photos are so heavily constructed and preconceived that they almost entirely lack the qualities at which photography excels. I wonder if all the fluff, bluster and hype is more about creating a market and plumping up the price rather than creating a meaningful piece of work.

Each to his own, however.

July 09, 2008 1:16 AM  
Anonymous Tuffer said...

I agree with the person above who mentioned Ryan Schude. He is doing this on (what sounds like) a much more reasonable production basis but still has outstanding, more playful, and I would even venture better, photos (

David- I would love to see a profile / interview with Ryan on Strobist.

If anyone is interested in this type of photography, Crewdson is just the one doing it on a damien-hirst scale. The photo as movie has been a contemporary art movement for a while. See the following books:
--Acting the Part: Photography as Theater
--Acting Out: Inventing Melodrama in Contemporary Photography
--reGeneration: 50 photographers of tomorrow.
--Philip-Lorca diCorcia

July 10, 2008 11:52 AM  
Blogger steveremich said...

Wow, that is vision. Sorry if this has already been mentioned, but if you haven't seen Spencer Tunick's work, it is equally huge-scale with similar amazing results. He does large installations with thousands of naked people that then become small elements. There is a great HBO documentary about him before he got big called "Naked States". Highly recommended

July 14, 2008 8:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heres some more info and a video:

July 17, 2008 12:51 PM  
Blogger smoothatwork said...

First off thanks for covering him, I'm always open to read and discover new artists in creating visuals. With that said..
The DOP is the photographer here no doubt. He's lighting the stage. Crewdson is a director. If I was "shooting" and someone else was lighting it for me - what am I there for? Ideas. Concept. Art Direction.

Some of his pieces are nice and I'm sure the large format print is amazing ( & there's always someone that will buy something different ) but I can't see why one can't do this with lesser budget. It's all a question of resources.
Multiple exposures and comping in post with Photoshop can do wonders. Not to mention usage of miniatures which can be substituted for real places for those who can't rent a city.

I also found the lighting in some location shots to look like it's been done in studio. I can sense the spot lights with no sense of where it's coming from. No real source I mean. Which defeats the purpose for using sets for me. Great DOP's for films can light sets and make it look seamless. Those are geniuses. If he didn't state that he had a DOP I would've been sold on him being the Photographer.

my 2 cents.

July 23, 2008 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Brian McCord said...

I'm not impressed. Sure they are beautiful photographs, but I think anyone can get great shots with a crew working for you. A director of photography for a photographer...really? Show me someone who can get great shots with a small bag of gear, no assistant and shitty assignments, then I'm impressed.

July 24, 2008 8:06 PM  
Anonymous tyler said...

You have to check out Gregory Crewdon's myspace page and the video from his old band the speedies, "Let Me Take Your Photo" - good stuff.

September 07, 2008 11:54 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

I spent hours and hours looking for this man. I saw one of his books at half price books and forgot his name the second I left and regretted not buying that book for YEARS. I think his art is amazing, and that's exactly what it is, ART. This guy has my respect. I mean, hello.. YALE? He knows his stuff and if given the opportunity anyone would take the chance and risk it to do something out of the ordinary and sooo grand!

Thanks Strobist!

January 19, 2009 6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the fact that his prints sell for $80K-$100K, I think he can find sufficient funding for the production of each photo.

February 16, 2009 5:33 PM  
Blogger muroshi said...

I'd like to see pictures of those negative posters. But I bet they have no content at all.

February 26, 2009 4:02 PM  
Blogger It's said...

I find it also amazing how hateful some of the responses are.

This guy has someone started like all of us. The difference is that he developed in something nobody of us would ever imagine to do.

He had the balls to execute his vision in scales which are unimaginable for all of us and give us something on our journey to jew on.

Most people struggle to pose a single person to give it some meaning, how would anyone here pose a complete city or neighbourhood....

Thank you Dave to open my mind. What a impact this mn has you can truly see on this post and their answers.

October 30, 2009 6:13 PM  
Blogger V. said...

It seems disingenuous to call this guy a photographer as he is not photographing anything (a director of films is not called a photographer unless he is also the cinematographer). The title ‘conceptual artist’ just puts things into perspective; it’s less about labels than honesty. Call me crazy but I can’t see this work without thinking about money, which makes it inherently superficial and flawed for me. That said, I can now get on with my own art. Godspeed to those who are enthralled.

October 13, 2012 5:55 PM  

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