How Stephen Shore’s Photographs Inspired Netflix’s Mindhunter

Alexxa Gotthardt
November 23, 2017

In the first scene of the Netflix crime show Mindhunter, the camera trails a car through the run-down streets of small-town Braddock, Pennsylvania. We don’t know that it’s 1977, or that someone will be offed in the next five minutes—but the setting provides clues. It’s a rainy night lit only by moody street lamps and the beams of an AMC Matador police car. The nearby buildings ooze seediness.

The scene is lonely, unglamorous, and wildly intriguing. It’s also resolutely American—and whisks viewers swiftly back to the 1970s.

It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that the show’s creators were inspired by the pioneering U.S. photographers of that decade—namely, the great Stephen Shore, whose career spent capturing backroads, motel rooms, and lunch counters across America is currently being celebrated in a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. “Since Mindhunter is a period piece, photography from the era was hugely helpful to all of us,” the show’s cinematographer, Erik Messerschmidt, tells me from Los Angeles.

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6 thoughts on “How Stephen Shore’s Photographs Inspired Netflix’s Mindhunter”

  1. Quick question for ya:

    Somewhere along the line, I came across an article about *another* artist (also a photographer, I *think*) who was noted as an influence on Fincher, specifically on either GONE GIRL or MINDHUNTER, or both.

    He used people in staged tableaus that hinted at stories suggesting underlying perversities occurring just before or after the moment captured. I think they were photographs, but could have been paintings using models.

    The article also may have mentioned that the artist was working on a debut feature film.

    Any thoughts?

    – Jeff


    1. Nothing comes to mind right now. The only other photographic influence on Mindhunter that I know of is William Eggleston.

      But I love this kind of stuff and I’m intrigued. I’ll look into it.


  2. Hello, a couple of shooters spring to mind ~ Jeff Wall & Gregory Crewdson, working in somewhat simiar areas.
    In terms of possible influence on Fincher {or at least GG & MH} í would tend toward Mr Crewdson, principally because Erik Messerschmidt {who worked as a gaffer to DoP Jeff Cronenweth on GG, before shooting the bulk of MH S1/S2} started out as an assistant to Mr Crewdson.
    And Mr Crewdson has a feature film “Reflective Light” in development.
    Hope this helps Jeff.


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