I visited Gregory Crewdson’s Cathedral of the Pines exhibition at The Photographer’s Gallery here in London. It is impressively staged over three whole floors of the gallery and doesn’t disappoint in its unsettling, painterly beauty.
The word that keeps coming to mind when viewing this series of images is ‘Trapped’. Either physically in a room or a house or a relationship. Or psychologically, where the impact of the unknown in these photographs weighs so heavily on the people in them.
They are trapped in their own heads by their demons, worries, dark secrets, a shady past, things they have done or things they are about to do. We all know this feeling in some shape or form – and this is why the pictures resonate so strongly with us.
David Lynch unearthed a vision of America in the influential Twin Peaks and his movie Blue Velvet. You can sense the same uneasy, queasiness in these pictures. Crewdson has often conveyed this darker view of America in his photographs but in this series he has added layers to it with softer lighting and a painterly palette of muted tones.
Ostensibly, we see the dark underbelly of the US. But perhaps in these unpredictable days in the United States it is a more accurate reflection of the mainstream reality; not the populist, upbeat vision of what outsiders consider to be America.
Hopper-esque in the impact of their psychological weight on both the people portrayed, as well as us, the viewer, we find ourselves projecting our own experiences, thoughts and preconceptions onto what has, or is unfolding in each image.
There is no clean cut conclusion in each image, however; just an open narrative for us to dwell on individually as we stand in front of the pictures, marvelling at the expertise with which each photograph has been assembled.