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A Picture 20 Years in the Making
Reflecting on a picture, shot in 2003, that will now benefit a non-profit trying to save a movie theater
The above picture, made in 2003, and now printed in 2023 as a special edition to benefit Save the Triplex and Aperture, has had a long history and evolution. On the occassion of this special sale and cause, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on the making of the picture, and how it came to be. It actually started in 2002, with the HBO series Six Feet Under.
The experience of making the poster image for Six Feet Under was completely unique for me. But it was all very fateful, and seemed meant to be. First of all, I was a huge fan of the series. One week, out of the blue, I heard my name mentioned in a scene involving Claire Fisher (Lauren Ambrose) who was a photo student at an art school. I knew nothing about it ahead of time, so I was just sitting in my living room like everybody else and experienced it in real time. Had I just heard my name? I wasn’t even sure. Back then, you couldn’t pause and rewind.
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Not long after, I was asked by HBO to create a picture for the show’s third season. I had been asked to do things like this before, and have been since, and to this day it’s the only time I said yes. I can’t even quite explain why. But it was a great experience, and so much fun. Myself and my DP, Richard Sands, camera operator Daniel Karp, and a few others of my core team who are based in the Berkshires and New York — all flew out to the set in LA, and worked closely with the Six Feet Under team and the Production Designer K. K. Barrett, who I asked to be a part of the project as well. We filled the familiar kitchen with soil and flowers, and created one single image. During that process, Lauren Ambrose and I discovered we had a Berkshires connection. So some time later, in 2003, when I was beginning work on Beneath the Roses, we reconnected in Massachusetts and I asked her to be in a picture.
I always liked the picture, but I didn’t include it in the final series. My original conception was to have Lauren amongst, but slightly apart, from many other young adults hanging out at this convenience store. I imagined her captivated by something mysterious out of frame that we could not see. There were originally going to be some moths in the picture, too. When it was done, I felt I had overpopulated the picture, and it felt too distracting. I set it aside and the contacts and negatives remained untouched on a shelf for 20 years.
Then, strangely, a few months ago, I came across the picture again in my archives. I realized that we had done some plates later in the shoot just with Lauren, without all the other figures, and I had an idea to rework the image to feel more emptied out, more isolated.
Meanwhile, totally separate from all of this, I heard that the Triplex was possibly going to close. There are many reasons why that felt sad. First of all, it’s the only local movie theater in Great Barrington. Without the Triplex, the next closest theater is quite a drive. But there’s also a deeper and more historic significance to the theater. Pauline Kael, the legendary film critic, used to be a resident of Great Barrington, and frequented the theater. Pauline was a family friend — her daughter and my mother were and are still very close — and especially in Pauline’s later years, I saw many movies with her at the Triplex. And, of course, I wasn’t the only one, so the theater has Pauline Kael associations for many people here. It has a certain history of serious moviegoing and thoughtful programming.
So then I heard that a non-profit was being formed by people in the Berkshires, and among them were Lauren and her husband Sam. I wanted to do something to help, too, and one day, when I was swimming in the pool at Yale, the idea came to me of having the picture benefit the theater.
I do believe that everything has its time. I don’t know what made me look at this picture again after 20 years, or what made me want to rework it. But I love the picture now, and I think it found its perfect context.
Editorial note: This piece was written by Juliane Hiam, as told to her by Gregory. You can read a piece featuring a conversation between Lauren Ambrose and Gregory Crewdson at Aperture.org. The special edition print sale runs from June 2nd through June 9th, 2023. Prints are $250 and can be purchased at Aperture.org/gregorycrewdson. All proceeds benefit Save the Triplex and Aperture.