States of Disillusion

“I have been making pictures in the same general area in western Massachusetts for 25 years now. I drive around and around in my car, and when a location is right, I just know. I am very familiar, in particular, with Pittsfield, MA, and have favourite spots that I like to scout for pictures. I have been fascinated with one taxi depot in particular for years, and the neighbourhoods that surround it. There’s a certain kind of architecture and feeling there that I am drawn to. These pictures were all made essentially within a small geographical area.” Gregory Crewdson (b. 1962) has been internationally acclaimed for his unique style – combining documentary voyeurism with a lustrous vision of contemporary life. He is a master of conceptual narratives played out within the everyday, often taking domestic settings as a focus. 

His latest series, An Eclipse of Moths, comprises 16 images shot over the last two years, ruminating around downed streetlights, abandoned baby carriages and decommissioned carnival rides. These outdoor scenes, in post-industrial New England, offer room for a cast of classic, haunted characters – full of equal parts yearning and ennui, which the title reflects: “The name comes from a real term for a grouping of moths that are drawn to a light source. I liked that metaphor in terms of the figures in the pictures, being drawn to street lamps and porch lights. Like moths, they are attempting to use the lights to find their way in the midst of feeling lost, or disoriented.”

Compared to previous series, including Cathedral of the Pines (2013/2014), this new work pans further outwards, looking at the American landscape through its expansive geography and polarised perspectives. Crewdson notes: “I made all the Cathedral of the Pinespictures in very remote locations. That series was more intimate, and had a particular focus on nature: the relationship between exterior and interior spaces, dislocation and longing. Some of those themes carry into An Eclipse of Moths,but here I was more interested in the urban landscape and placing smaller figures within a vaster view. These prints are larger – and more panoramic – to emphasise that relationship between the characters and the emptied-out settings that surround them.”

Though these works are filled with inertia and disillusion, shot in the middle of health and political crises with the 2020 presidential campaign in full swing, Crewdson is keen to state that the photographs were not made with any overt social or political commentary in mind. However, he recognises his work is, at least, indirectly influenced by the state of the world. He explains: “I think I see this influence more in retrospect, rather than a real intention at the time. However, I want the viewer to interpret their own meaning. The figures are often caught in a state of contemplation and longing, or a search for meaning, but I hope that there is also a feeling of optimism, redemption and some sort of transcendence.”

An Eclipse of Moths, Galerie Templon, Paris, Until 23 January. For more information, click here.

1. Gregory CREWDSON, Alone Street, 2018-2019, Archival pigment print mounted to Dibond. Courtesy of Galerie Templon.
2. Gregory CREWDSON, Redemption Centre, 2018-2019, Courtesy of Galerie Templon.
3. Gregory CREWDSON, Red Star Express, 2018-2019, Courtesy of Galerie Templon.