Beneath the Roses

 

Contemporary Photographers

I have long been a fan of Gregory Crewdson’s work, and I recently received “Beneath the Roses” as a gift. After unpacking the book I should have waited for actual day light to look at it, but how can a new photo book be placed on my table with me not looking at it? So I decided to quickly flip through the book, kind of like a “trailer” if you will: “This is all the stuff you’ll get to enjoy tomorrow morning, when the light is good (and when you don’t have to live with the weird yellowish-green light of energy-saving bulbs).” Of course, my eye was mostly drawn towards the people in the photos, and with every image followed quickly by the next I noted that there is what looks like a somewhat narrow range of “activities” - if you want to call it an “activity” if someone stands in front of a mirror, staring at a reflection. I’m going to slightly exaggerate here, but it looks like there are lots of men staring into weird holes in their houses, and lots of women (many of them naked) who are somehow unsettled by their own selves. And that made me wish for more - sure, there is a lot of emptiness in suburbia (and in those other places depicted in the book), but emptiness and disillusionment cannot possibly all there is?! Maybe this points towards what I’d be tempted to call a Lynchian stereotyping of American life, where there are “uncanny” (you can’t write a serious photo blog and not use the word “uncanny” at least once) things going on, but they’re kind of all the same. I’m not even arguing that these human activities are all real (for all I know surburbanites could all be extremely happy campers), but I wager that if people are disillusioned or unhappy or frustrated or whatever else they might be (and I’m sure there are enough people who experience something like this) then the range of responses is probably a bit wider than what Lynch and/or Crewdson would want us to believe. But then, maybe photography and film mirror what you see in literature, where you know that when you read author XYZ you’re bound to get, for example, a neurotic character obsessed with sex, whose inner monologue you’ll find laid out across 600 pages. As a consequence you know that when you hear, for example, the name Tim Burton the movie will be Johnny Depp plus Helena Bonham Carter plus weird machinery, all way overproduced, plus an extremely annoying score by Danny Elfman. But then I could just be wrong about this all.