In January 2021, the Templon Gallery hosted An eclipse of moths, a cinematographic series by Gregory Crewdson. The melancholy portrait of an America caught up by its own decline.

Gregory Crewdson’s images, almost two metres wide, are a real eye-catcher. Initiated four years ago, the series An eclipse of moths, composed of sixteen large-format photographs, adorns the walls of the Templon Gallery. An immersive ensemble, in which the viewer is invited to immerse himself. Working like a director, Gregory Crewdson leaves nothing to chance: actors, props, make-up artists, storyboards and sets accompany each of his creations. The size of his prints evokes the cinema screen and its ability to grab the audience and immerse them into a captivating story.

For the photographer and director of photography at Yale, the location is the key ingredient of a successful image. “The process always begins with it. I drive around neighborhoods and places on the outskirts of town, studying certain areas. Then through visiting the location over and over and over, the narrative emerges and comes to me” he says. With a masterful hand, the artist places his characters and objects, changes the names of streets, signs, even paints the bodies of cars to make them look dirtier. With the help of his team, he lights and puts every detail in focus to reveal the numerous nuances of his settings. “I want the viewer to be able to get up close to the image and see the details, but also to stand back and feel lost in the larger world of the picture”, he adds.

Plenitude and destruction

An eclipse of moths was born in the years following Trump’s election. The project reads like a snapshot of an inert America. Here and there, old cars (symbols of the technological power of the territory, a few decades earlier) lie empty on rainy roads, their doors open. Dominated by the urban landscape, the few characters who appear in Gregory Crewdson’s images passively witness the unfolding of their existence. And their eyes never meet. Strangely retro props, such as a baby carriage, hospital beds, a wheelchair, a roller-coaster frame, coffins, etc., feed the narrative. “These elements point to opposing forces: mortality and immortality, domesticity and nature, wholeness and brokenness”, he says.

Like Edward Hopper – one of his influences – the photographer portrays an America on the fence: divided between a desire to evolve, and an inability to rid itself of the past. Between a nature still resisting and a stifling urbanisation. With a poignant melancholy, Gregory Crewdson invites the viewer to question himself, to weave links between the different elements of his pictures. For if the mist enveloping his actors seems to stall their actions, the warm colours of the skies announce a certain hope. But how to fight against the unbearable decadence? Can we get rid of the weight of decay? After all, the scenes imagined by the artist evoke, just like the title of his series, the flights of moths, inevitably attracted by light, as beautiful and radiant as they are artificial.


The exhibition An Eclipse of Moths can be visited virtually here.

© Gregory Crewdson / Courtesy Templon, Paris-Brussels