Gregory Crewdson’s recent opening at the Gagosian displays his new series “Sanctuary.” Superficially, the work seems to digress from his earlier photographs. Rendered in black-and-white, this group of forty-one images was shot exclusively in Rome at the abandoned Cinecittà studios. Unlike the majority of Crewdson’s previous projects such as Twilight (1998-2002) and Beneath the Roses (2003-2007), the pictures have no physical human presence. For those projects, Crewdson created his own sets and used actors to create surrealist dramas of suburbia that often conveyed feelings of anxiety and dread. In Sanctuary, he photographed previously constructed film sets without altering the scenes in any way. Instead of the drama itself, the cinematic stages become the subject matter. Because of this, the work contains strong currents of documentary. At the same time the pictures disclose the “mysterious hidden life of films and their artifacts that remain once production has ceased.” The lack of a human presence also serves to highlight the melancholy and unsettling nature of the bygone sets that have fallen into disrepair. As Crewdson puts it himself: the pictures “draw upon the inherent quietness and uncanny aspects of the empty sets.” In this way, he continues to walk the nebulous line between fiction and reality in photography.

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