Cultured Magazine

Winter 2015

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CULTURED 245 setting—something Crewdson has done with Becket, Massachusetts, in Pines. And Vertigo (1958) made a deep impression: "It's a meditation on how pictures are, at their core, some kind of illusion, some kind of mirage. That's such a beautiful notion." Once at Yale, Crewdson had two useful, very different forces shaping him. "Yale was very traditional then, but I was going down to New York to look at Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince," he says. "At the same time, I was getting a great education in Walker Evans and William Eggleston. Both those oppositional aesthetics influenced me equally." Crewdson established a reputation by staging enormous, cinematic-style productions lasting weeks and employing large crews, all to create a few haunting still images. And then five years ago, while making his Sanctuary series in Rome, his personal life started to fall apart. "My marriage ended, and I have two children," says Crewdson. "It was a very difficult period. I went into a period of darkness." And his working life suffered. "It was the equivalent to writer's block. It went on for a couple of years. The period of non-activity really took a toll on me." Crewdson emerged when a friendship with Juliane Hiam, a Berkshires local who had been featured in one of his photographs (naked and pregnant, no less), turned into a romance—and when a visual epiphany on a winter day stirred his poetic side. He and Hiam, now a couple, were cross-country skiing at the time. "There's a path in the woods called Cathedral of the Pines, and the whole series came to me in that moment," says Crewdson. "The backdrop of the forest was a kind of signal." Hiam, Crewdson's creative producer, now handles his casting, and even lent her parents' house as a location for Pines. She collaborated with Crewdson on the "picture descriptions" phase, which plots out the ambiguous scenes. "It's like a screenplay for a single image," Hiam says. "He never wants me to load it with too much motivation." She and her son appear in the series, too. The Pines photographs were made with much less fuss than Crewdson's previous ones. "I already proved to myself I could make these huge pictures, close down streets and make snow," he says. "I wanted to tell a more intimate and private story." As he plots his future course, Crewdson feels that he is back to the right balance of light and dark—for a photographer, an essential equilibrium. Without some shadow, it just wouldn't be his work. "My pictures will always feel slightly alienated and slightly mysterious," he says of his upcoming show. "But I really tried to make the most beautiful pictures I could." The moodiness of his new series, including Beneath the Bridge, 2014, was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock films.

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