I am interested in the idea of the photo made, rather than the photo taken. In this post I explore the works of three contemporary artists who have created effective photographic tableau.
According to the Tate Gallery, 2019: Tableau is used to describe a painting or photograph in which characters are arranged for picturesque or dramatic effect and appear absorbed and completely unaware of the existence of the viewer.
The photograph above, Jeff Wall, 1993: A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai) exemplifies this art form. The subjects are unaware of the camera as a gust of wind carries away a stream of papers. The flat lighting, and dramatic positioning of the figures adds to the affect.
Cindy Sherman’s work (1990), Mrs. Claus, features a rather grotesque rendition of Mrs. Claus that, despite looking at the camera, still evokes that lack of awareness of the photographer.
The grotesqueness and surrealism of this photograph seems to arise from the stuffed cheeks and fake wig of the model, the white lighting which directly illuminates the subject and awkward hand placements –as if the model is trying to push herself away from the camera.
Gregory Crewdson has created complex, subtle and cinematographic images. His naturalistic detail and serene demeanor of the model is thrust into the surreal through the use of dramatic lighting.