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Gregory Crewdson’s eerie photographs of suburbia at dusk require set-ups as elaborate as a film shoot. “My photographs are about the moment of transition between before and after,” he explains. “Twilight is evocative of that. There’s something magical about the condition.” The eerie effect of twilight crossed with strong artificial light – street lights, house lights, lights from the sky – is exaggerated by Crewdson’s choice of backdrop, which is almost always nondescript suburban America.
He is not the first photographer to be drawn to twilight – “nature at its most impressive”, according to the exhibition catalogue – but his images are uniquely tense, pregnant with atmosphere. Edward Hopper, Ray Bradbury, The Twilight Zone, Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and David Lynch can all lay a claim to influence.
Lynch is Crewdson’s most obvious source of inspiration. When he was a graduate art student in the mid-1980s, the photographer says he was struck by Lynch’s masterpiece, Blue Velvet. “I had the distinct feeling it would change me,” he says. Lynch’s vision of a dystopian world beneath the suburban idyll of Lumberton – in particular, the unforgettable 15-minute scene in which Kyle MacLachlan hides in a cupboard while Dennis Hopper acts out his S&M fantasies with Isabella Rossellini – left a lasting impression: “I love everything about it – the set, the attention to colour, light and mood.”