Comparing a Gregory Crewdson Photo With Flash Fiction
Apples and Oranges or Are They?
Despite the fact that the end results of these two crafts are overtly contrary in disposition, a Gregory Crewdson photograph and a strong flash fiction story are parallel in their compositional form. Initially, I found the comparison of the two artforms obscure and highly subjective. The more I forced myself to break them down systematically the more I began to grasp how they were not only relevant to one another but closely correlated.
I realized that those same deep-seated, imposing emotions that elicit a Crewdson photograph are the same emotions that structure a great flash fiction plot. If it were possible to line a Crewdson photo and a flash fiction story up, side by side, in order to analyze the process by which each is created versus the process the viewer/reader goes through, I think we will find the similarities to be uncanny.
First, it must be established that Crewdson has mastered what is known as the tableau. A tableau is a single image that makes use of theatre arts combined with visual arts by using one or more actors, lighting, props, and a pre-established location in order to create an intended cinematic vision. Maxing out at 1000 words, a flash fiction story may not have fancy lighting or props in its toolbelt but what it lacks in visual inabilities, these snapshot stories make up for it with their immediately gratifying way of throwing the reader in the deep end of the action.
In either craft, the reader/viewer is engaged and led to the main characters and their conflict. There is something psychologically familiar in flash fiction just like Crewdson photographs. Suddenly, I understand that certain emotions translate into specific artforms better than others. It is easy to get caught up in the drama of these very short stories be it the written word or photograph, but it is best to take your time and adjust the speed of your gaze.
Slow it down to a methodical pace and take the time that’s critical to understanding why each particular element of the photograph/story and its placement are all necessary components of the overall anecdote or what Gregory Crewdson calls the “perfect moment” demonstrated in “American vernacular”. It’s one moment that consists of the common American problems. A moment so profound and pregnant with sentiment that something tangible must come from it.
Brief in nature, there’s no room for hemming and hawing with either of these narratives. Every last essential aspect of the photo or story must be direct, deliberate, and purposeful. The confined space in which both mediums must function leaves no room for fluff and creates an experience that is more guided than other crafts.
And Just like that, as quickly as it all began, the ending is harsh and abrupt. The Crewdson photograph and good flash fiction will leave all of your senses feeling pleasantly assaulted in a way that works its way into your mind permanently, so much so, you won’t mind revisiting them again and again.