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Virtual Screening Of Crewdson Documentary A Fundraiser For Housing Nonprofit

A heavyset man with long grey hair stands behind a camera.
Photograph by Christopher Peterson
Gregory Crewdson in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 2007.

Next week, a Berkshire County affordable housing nonprofit is holding a fundraiser featuring a documentary on the work of photographer Gregory Crewdson.

The Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire is holding a virtual screening of 2012’s “Brief Encounters,” which examines how the artist creates his complex, haunting images.

“’Brief Encounters’ is a movie that was directed by the documentary filmmaker Ben Shapiro over a period of 10 years while we were making ‘Beneath The Roses,'" said Crewdson.

The series of 20 images that comprise “Beneath The Roses”’ were made in and around Berkshire County between 2003 and 2008, and catapulted the photographer to acclaim.

“My pictures are in some ways like making small movies," Crewdson told WAMC. "We have a very large production team. I have a director of photography, Rick Sands, and there are many other people involved. And so I think the process is interesting in terms of showing how these pictures were actually made.”

The Brooklyn-born photographer says his fascination with the Berkshires began when his family vacationed in the county as a child.

“The interesting thing is that I also use these locations as backdrops for a more a fictive approach to the medium," he said. "So I feel like in all my pictures there’s an interesting tension between actual places and something that’s more cinematic or more imagined.”

The dark, dream-like and at times disturbing tone of Crewdson’s work is often compared to directors like David Lynch.

“First and foremost in all pictures is, ‘try to make a picture that feels beautiful and mysterious,'" he explained. "That’s what it comes down to, always. And I’m looking for locations that feel both familiar and slightly outside of time.”

He’s used the Berkshires as the setting for his work as recently as 2018 and 2019 to create images like “Redemption Center,” from his series “An Eclipse of Moths.” That shot captures a shirtless man and an abandoned shopping cart in front of the titular redemption center attached to George’s Liquor Store from across the overgrown parking lot of the former Harry’s Supermarket in Pittsfield.

“I like coming back to the same places over and over again because you become a kind of known quantity and that you are able to go deeper into a place the more time you spend," said Crewdson. "And for whatever reason, these locations, these settings play on my imagination. I feel connected to them, that’s in a significant way.”

WAMC: Your photo “Redemption Center” captures both the first place I ever smoked marijuana and where I used to eat sandwiches in high school, in one image. The side parking lot of the former Harry’s Supermarket and the loading dock of George’s Liquors, was two big parts of my high school experience – so it’s amazing to see that.

CREWDSON: You know what, you can feel that in the location, that there’s something very kind of – you can see that. And also, I think you probably know I took a picture of Harry’s when it existed.

Crewdson, who now lives in Great Barrington, says he’s happy that his work can support the efforts of the Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire.

“Housing is really also a significant part of my work, part of the iconography in my pictures," he said. "And I’m really interested in the idea of home, and also place and that question of home and connection and disconnection certainly plays in my work. So it seems like something I very much want to support.”

The Community Development Corporation of South Berkshire’s virtual screening of Ben Shapiro’s documentary on the work of Gregory Crewdson, “Brief Encounters,” is scheduled for Friday, October 2nd at 7 p.m. For more information, click here.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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