Sanctuary: flat, soft light, natural light. Makes you feel sad for the abandoned places. No contrast, no brightness, completely abandoned.

Hints: List all the parts of how the lighting looks before saying that it ‘looks like a film still’

Gregory Crewdson’s book ‘In a Lonely Place’, shows a number of different projects by Crewdson. One of his most famous set of photographs is the ‘Beneath the Roses’ project.

His images are intricate creations, all with a very strong use of unnatural light that is crisp, and clean cut. This gives his photographs a distinctive film still quality. There is a very considered use of light, which lights up certain parts of the image, drawing your eyes to specific areas.

This is particularly noticeable in ‘Plate 9’. It has the look and feel of a painting, while the use of light draws your eye further into the image. There is a mixture of bright light and flat, harsh darkness. The high contrast and saturation makes you feel there is something supernatural happening. Each layer of the image appears almost flat until they are brought together to create a detailed photograph.

Another on of his projects in the book is ‘Sanctuary’. This contrasts strongly to ‘Beneath the Roses’ as it implements flat, soft, natural light. The fact there is no contrast, no brightness in these images, makes you feel sympathy for the abandoned buildings it portrays.

One thing that Crewdson himself has said, and can be seen in his photographs, is how he has been influenced by the iconic Edward Hopper.

Edward Hopper was a twentieth century realist painter based in America. Much like Crewdson, who photographs small towns but creates something much larger and cinematic, Hopper would take the commonplace and create something poetic.

His possibly most recognisable painting ‘Nighthawks’ (1942), shows where Crewdson got his inspiration from. The rich saturation of the nighttime setting, drawing your eye to specific subjects within the painting, gives the scene a peaceful yet, also, saddening tone. The man and woman sitting together just seem to frame how lonely the man sitting with his back to the viewer appears. This is intensified by how, while the interior of the cafe is bright, the man seems to blend in with the dark toned surroundings that contrast so heavily.

A photographer who’s work I am reminded of when I see Hoppers work, is that of Brassaï, particularly his ‘Lovers in a café’ photograph.

The photograph seems posed, unnatural, cinematic, yet instead of unnatural, high contrast lighting, it appears to be natural light. The flat, low contrast lighting gives a sense of realism to the image, and seems to highlight how the ‘lovers’ are lost in there own world, blending into the background as they no longer care about there surroundings. The placement of the mirrors contrasts this, showing just how on display there affection is, by giving us different angles to see their faces and emotions. To me, the low contrast light, with the smoky atmosphere that seems to be displayed in the background of the mirrors, adds a seedy undertone to the image, that on a whole makes these two lovers seem like something far more depressing and unwholesome.

Though the situation may be entirely different, the lighting of Brassaï’s image reminds me of Dorothea Lange’s ‘Migrant Mother’ photograph.

The lighting of this photograph appears entirely natural, and doesn’t have any special cinematic quality of high contrast/ saturation. The whole image, from its lighting to composition, are completely natural in appearance.

The two boys turning there heads away almost frame their mothers concerned expression. Much like the lovers, she seems entirely lost in her current situation, with little worry for what is happening directly around her. The tree branch that is in the foreground to the right, gives the sense of us peeking from behind it to view a private moment of worry and contemplation.

The low contrast, grey tone of the photograph adds to the sense of anxiety and depression emanating from the subjects. However, at the same time, I would say there is also another tone in the photograph, of determination, coming from the mother.

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