“I really like that moment where the ambient light comes together and works together with the artificial light and creates this very powerful and evocative palette.”
About the artist
Suburbia always seemed a distant and exotic place for Gregory Crewdson, who grew up in Brooklyn. As the setting for his staged photographs, the suburbs have provided the perfect milieu for his uncanny narratives. To create his first mature body of work in the early 1990s, Crewdson constructed elaborate, small-scale dioramas of generic neighborhood backyards in which the flora and fauna enacted strange rituals: birds built a circle out of eggs, butterflies congregated to form a pyramid, vines turned into braids. Each of these miniature yet menacing worlds would be captured in a single photograph before being dismantled. Pregnant Woman in Pool belongs to his Twilight series (1998–2002), in which Crewdson expanded his subject matter to include images of individuals lost in the reverie of their own bizarre behavior, such as digging up a lawn within the confines of one’s own living room or wading, fully-dressed, in a kiddy pool at night. Shot in and around the town of Lee, Massachusetts, these surreal images were carefully constructed, much like sets for a film. In fact, Crewdson worked with a 35-person crew to achieve the cinematic feel of each image. He will often completely refabricate settings such as room interiors in order to create an atmosphere that seems entirely familiar, yet strange, to set the stage for how a work’s unfolding drama might best be imagined.
View + Discuss
1. Describe what you see happening in this photograph.
2. Imagine you could step into this scene. Where are you? How does it feel to be there? Why?
3. The artist, Gregory Crewdson, is interested in suggesting stories about his work. If this were a scene from a movie, what would the storyline be about? (What happened just before, during and after this scene?)
4. Crewdson carefully constructs these images, like sets for a film or play—in fact, he had a 35-person crew helping him create this scene. In what way does this remind you of a movie set or a scene from play? Why would an artist need the assistance of so many people to create this image?
Create a diorama or actual stage set outside that depicts a strange or fantasy scene inspired by a setting familiar to them—a park, a backyard, a room in the home, etc. When finished, take a close-up photo of the scene, cropping it so that all other surrounding extraneous information is deleted. Students can then write a story about their scene and/or someone else’s and share their interpretations. If possible, consider using slide film or a digital camera to project their image on a larger scale for class discussion.
Working in small groups or pairs, have students stage a scene that depicts a mysterious or a dream-like event and then photograph their scene. They should consider setting, lighting and how they will frame their image.
Have students create a storyboard about Pregnant Woman in Pool that describes what happened just before, during, and after the scene depicted. Include sketches and text that illustrate the sequence of actions.
Select some intriguing images that depict multiple characters in particular settings. Working in groups, have students think of their assigned image as a scene from a play and select a character they would like to portray. Have them script a dialogue for their character and collectively decide on stage and lighting directions for the scene. Students then perform a reading for the class.
Crewdson, Gregory, and Rick Moody. Twilight. Harry N. Abrams, 2002.
Crewdson, Gregory, et al. Hover. Artspace Books, 1998.
Zazanjian, Dodie. “Twilight Zone.” Vogue, May 2002, pp. 268–73, 299–300.
Pollack, Barbara. “Lights, Action, Camera!” ARTNews, February 2000, pp. 126–31.
Hayt, Elizabeth. "Gregory Crewdson: Digging Up the Surreal Underside of Ordinary Life." The New York Times, February 20, 2000: Art and Leisure Section, pp. 42 and 44.