Project 1 – Setting the Scene

Project 1: Setting the Scene 


Watch this famous scene from Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese in 1990: [Accessed: 24/02/14]. Don’t read on until you’ve answered the following questions: 

  • What does this scene tell you about the main character?
  • How does it do this? List the ‘Clues’.

Make some notes in your learning log. 

Before discussing the scene form Goodfellas, I will look at why cinema and narrative. Film is perfect for showing narrative, as it can merge many different things to provide the final result, such as lighting, props, acting, music and dialogue. All of which contributes to the narrative. In films, the narrative is built upon during the film; it can show the development of a character or a story. This differs from still photography as to fit a whole narrative into one frame is very difficult. David Campany stated that ‘still photography struggles with narrative as storytelling’. The narrative may be easier to see in a series of images, as the narrative can be developed and explained more.

This short video is an extract form the Goodfellas movie.

It starts with the main character, Harry Hill getting out of his car with his ‘date’. He has someone look after his car for him, like a valet, he also hands him some money. This shows the man has money, power and influence. He is wearing a black suit with a red tie, a woman accompanies him, and it appears to be their first date. This can be seen from their mannerism and the dialogue. Instead of waiting in line for the restaurant, they go in a different way. A man opens the door for them and Hill hands him some money. The colour scheme for this area is a dark red, which could be a symbolism of romance for the restaurant and their date, but also the violence and danger of Hill. The corridor is dark and shady, which could be a metaphor for his character. They go through the kitchen area, as they walk several people talk to Hill, so he is well known. The actual restaurant has a romantic intimate feel to it, the lights are dull and the tables are small. Hill talks to the owner of the restaurant and they seem to be fairly familiar with each other. A table is specially brought to the front of the restaurant in front of the band for them; another guest has a bottle of wine sent for them. His date then asks him what he does for a living; he states that he is in construction.

This clip tells the viewer several things about the Hill. He is a powerful and respected man here. He has money and ‘tips’ well, for their service and loyalty. He is trying to impress his date. He has an authoritative air about him. Everyone seems to know him, and their greetings seem to hold respect for Hill. The colour scheme includes reds and generally dark colours. Whilst in the restaurant this could be interpreted as romantic, it could also reflect Hill’s character, and his work. He lies to his date about what he does for a living, as everyone who knows about the films knows it is about the mob.

David Campany. Photography and Narrative: What is involved in story telling?. [Online]. <> [Accessed: 2nd August 2016].

Research Point 

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online. Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the questions below. [Accessed: 24/02/14]. 

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
  • What is your main goal when making pictures? So you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or Why Not? 

Gregory Crewdson is an American photographer born in 1962. He is well known for his images of suburban life. He went to the State University of New York, and earned a BFA, he then went onto the University of Yale where he earned a MFA. He plans his images down to the last detail, each one is staged and Crewdson uses actors in his images. Crewdson uses a large format camera and could have as many as fifty people working on one image, it takes time to plan and execute just one image. His work has featured in many galleries across the world but has also featured in the television series Six Feet Under.

The appearance of Psychology in photography is becoming more and more apparent. Photography is about communication, communication between the photographer and the viewers. The majority of images have a narrative, an ability to tell a story, which is visible depending on its context. Everything that makes an image up contributes to its psychology. For example, the depth, the colours or the complexity. A viewers response to the image depends on their own personal preferences, their life, their experiences, it all comes together to form an emotional response. Sometimes we don’t realise that we are effected by an image, but our consciousness registers it, and we start to look deeper at the images. You are more likely to have a response to an image if there is something familiar about it, something the registers in your brain and associations are formed. Some believe that this way of responding could originate from our ancestors. As we are ‘hard-wired’ to perceive danger and react, the same could be said for any feeling.

Crewdson’s work is done in a cinematic style, which adds to the psychology of the images. The response relies on the visual impact of his images. Everything is there for a reason in the images; it is controlled and is able to draw the viewers’ attention to certain aspects subtly.

When I first looked at Crewdson’s work I did not concentrate on the ‘beauty’ of the image. I immediately found my self wondering, trying to find the context and what the image was about and how it made me feel. I do not think that the aesthetic qualities of his images are the point; it goes a lot deeper than that. I’ll admit when I first looked at his image I felt uneasy. His work goes deeper than aesthetic beauty, according to the video, he plans everything. Everything is present for a reason, he ‘directs’ the image. The images are created, not just taken. It takes a lot of time, money, and personnel to make these images possible. He could have at least 60 people working with him. I believe there is a underlying psychological feel to his images.

I believe that Crewdson does succeed in making his images psychological. The make-up of the images alludes to this. His ‘models’ don’t move, they are posed often in slightly odd ways. The backdrops are suburban neighbourhoods, which the whole scene could be described as banal. Crewdson stated that he is trying to produce the sense that there are dark undercurrents just beneath the surface of his images, and that the picture we see is almost a façade, being overlaid on top of the seething emotions below. It is obviously that he is creating a psychological imaging. His background has psychological elements to it as his father was a psychoanalyst. His images are ‘the abundance of detail balanced with a striking lack of information’. Crewdson wants to create the perfect image, but even for him he fails, and this is what drives him on, he is ‘fuelled by his disappointment’.

My goal when creating images vary as to what type of photography I am doing. If it is landscapes, I tend to look for different angels to show that beauty, whereas with portraits I like to show emotion. I don’t think any image is purely concentrated on beauty, there is almost always an underlying context that may not even be apparent to the photographer.

ArtNet. Gregory Crewdson (American, Born 1962). [Online]. <; [Accessed: 10th of September 2016].

The American Reader. In Conversation Interview with Photographer Gregory Crewdson. [Online]. <> [Accessed: 25th of August 2016].

Thein, M. Photography and Psychological: It’s All a Mind Game. The Huffington Post. [Online]. <> [Accessed: 23th August 2016].

Thein, M. Photography and Psychology, Part Ti: How we View Images. The Huffington Post. [Online]. <; [Accessed: 25th of August 2016].


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