Brief Encounters

Nadav Soroker, Co-Editor-in-Chief

“Brief Encounters” showcases the haunting and surreal photographs of Yale Professor and photographic titan Gregory Crewdson and describes how he crafted all their detailed complexities, whether lighting up a junkyard or building a trapdoor in a backyard.

The Sonoma File Institute presented the film last weekend and asked Renata Breth, SRJC photography professor, to give a 25-minute introduction that defined and talked about directorial photography and its history.
“We can call it creative realities, the directorial mode. We can call it staged photography,” Breth said.

An accompanying slideshow helped illustrate the points Breth wanted to make.  Among the artists shown were Henry Peach Robinson and Charles Lutwidge Dodson, who were both significant directorial photographers from the late 1800s. Breth also showed images by Jeff Wall, one of Crewdson’s contemporaries.

During Breth’s speech, several of Crewdson’s works were introduced, because the film itself does not spend a long time showing full images.

Once the film started, the auditorium was treated to an interesting look at one of the most over-the-top photographers of the era. Brief Encounters explores Crewdson’s series “Beneath the Roses,” and shows how he completed the large and ethereal images the series is known for.

For some of his images the film shows how Crewdson would construct a house on a soundstage and do complex lighting. For another image the film shows him closing off the main street in a small town, craning in studio lights and managing all the details down to tracks through the snow.