Discover more from Crewdson Trail Log
DREAM HOUSE 20TH ANNIVERSARY #2
Open to Change: The Julianne Moore shoot
In 2002, I made a portfolio of 12 images called Dream House. It was originally printed in the New York Times Magazine, conceived and published in collaboration with the Magazine’s esteemed Director of Photography Kathy Ryan. Dream House was a unique project, in that it was and still is the only editorial commission I’ve done, and the only time I’ve featured well-known and recognizable actors in pictures in an overt and conscious way. The making of these pictures was a labor of love, and is a fond memory.
This is the second in a series of posts dedicated to the 20th Anniversary of this body of work.
Enjoying Crewdson Trail Log? Stay up to date on all our content by subscribing.
AS ANYONE who has ever read about our pre-production process knows, we go to great lengths to plan every tiny detail for each picture before we ever get on set. There are meetings, consults, written descriptions, fabric samples, sketches, location pictures, lighting tests, and studies. But inevitably, despite all those efforts, there are always things that arise that are outside of our control. Part of what makes being in production exciting, in fact, is the way circumstance forces you to be in the moment, make quick decisions, switch directions if necessary, or pull the plug altogether on a picture if for whatever reason it’s just not working. In many cases, the problems, mistakes, and surprises result in the best pictures.
This was the case with the Julianne Moore picture in Dream House. I originally had a picture in mind for her set in a dining room. There was a vent in the ceiling that we made into a light source. On the table below there were flowers and gifts, and an ambiguous assortment of business papers and bills in disarray. Julianne is looking up toward something out of frame, lost in thought.
Below are some 8 x 10 black and white Polaroid studies I made for that picture.
We then made a series of test shots on the 8 x 10 camera (a couple contact prints are below,) but at some point, I knew I wanted to rethink her picture. So I made the decision to shift gears. I came up with a new concept in a different space, and the next day, we wound up shooting what turned out to be one of my favorite pictures in the series — Julianne seated on the edge of a bed.
The funny thing is that now, looking through the contact prints and Polaroids for the original set up, I can see that there was also the potential for a beautiful picture emerging. But had I not made the decision toward a new concept on that shoot I may not have made the picture that was clearly meant to be.
I wound up using the dining room for another picture featuring Dylan Baker, Becky Ann Baker, and their daughter, and a boy that we cast from the neighborhood. The light source in the ceiling vent became a central narrative element, with Becky Ann Baker having gotten up from a family dinner to gaze up at it. This turned out to be another of my favorites. Everything works out for a reason.
Editorial note: This piece was written by Juliane Hiam based on conversations and interviews she did with the artist.