"I find it gratifying that people really do get up close to study my prints," said Crewdson, a widely acclaimed fine art photographer whose work is displayed in many museum and public collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He has also received numerous awards, most notably the Skowhegan Medal for Photography and the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship. In addition to his work as a fine art photographer, he is the head of Yale University's renowned Graduate Photography Program.
"I do everything I can to achieve absolute clarity in a photograph," said Crewdson. He also believes that the smallest details in his images have important meaning, whether it's a wallpaper pattern, the light of a distant train, the number of cigarettes resting on an ashtray, or the small print on a prescription bottle. To attain the large scale he requires without compromising quality, Crewdson used the Epson Stylus® Pro 11880 wide-format ink jet printer to create 59x90-inch prints for his Beneath the Roses exhibitions. The most recent photographs in the series were shown at Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York, Gagosian Gallery in Beverly Hills and White Cube in London. The full series is also available in a book called Beneath the Roses, by Harry N. Abrams, in conjunction with the exhibitions.
"I'm really moved when I see people look at a photograph as if they've never seen a print quite like this before."
No matter what city or country, the "Crewdson plunge" is always in full effect, as people step up close to study the nearly 5x8-foot prints. "I'm really moved when I see people look at a photograph as if they've never seen a print quite like this before," said Crewdson. The viewing distance for prints, often calculated as twice the diagonal measurement, is up to 18 feet away. But the clarity and intricacy of Crewdson's prints lures viewers to get within inches of the intriguing details.
Not so long ago, he was completely dependent on large labs to produce traditional C prints for his many exhibitions worldwide. Today he relies on Epson printers to create images with the high quality and large scale he needs for his kind of work.
"Being able to create these sharper, large-sized prints in-house at faster speeds changed my whole approach toward photographic printmaking and has brought a new level of creative freedom to my work," he said. Although the focus of the exhibition was not on technology, Crewdson believes he could not have shown all photographic details in the prints using other printing methods. Epson's high resolution MicroPiezo® TFP™ print heads and AccuPhoto HD screening allowed him to hold onto all the subtle detail in his original 8x10 captures. In an ironic twist, an Epson representative detected what he thought was "micro banding" on a print, but Crewdson quickly pointed out that the pattern of lines was actually the screen door that he shot through. "For the first time, a printing technology was able to reproduce that kind of fine detail," said Crewdson.
Crewdson shoots exclusively with an 8x10 view camera for "the greatest amount of information," he said. Using up to 50 light sources, he photographs neighborhoods of clapboard houses, snowy small-town streets and otherworldly settings at twilight, either on location or a soundstage. "I'm very interested in using light and color to tell a story, to take an everyday situation and transform it into something cinematic and theatrical," he said. Through a painstaking shooting technique and post production process, the results are images of absolute clarity and three dimensionality.
"For the first time, I was not restricted by printing technology," said Crewdson. "I'm completely invested in the idea of trying to make the image as beautiful, as mysterious and as powerful as possible. The technology allows me to reproduce exactly what I envision.
"While Epson technology enables him to display his work in the best way possible, the true measure of a photograph's success is when the focus is on the image itself rather than how it was produced. Now that Epson ink jet prints in particular have found widespread acceptance in the fine art world, the focus is back on photography itself.
As a faculty member for over 15 years at Yale University, where he also received his master's degree in fine arts, Crewdson has witnessed many changes from one way of thinking to another. He now sees most of his photography students using Epson photographic printers on an everyday basis.
"Though technology is only the means through which a photographer's vision is revealed, it has dramatically changed what an individual artist can do," he said. "I am absolutely thrilled to know that I can now make all my final prints in my studio while maintaining control over the entire process."