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Publications: The Sleepers

The Sleepers Book: Cover
Cover

The Sleepers Book: Detail
Detail

Essay by Thomas McGovern (excerpt)
Read an Excerpt

Mark Daybell’s photography project The Sleepers is about so much more than just sleeping people and the suggestion of their dreams. The pictures are made with the aid of a timer‚ shot in the middle of the night‚ so serendipity is a major issue‚ and therefore editing is a big factor. I find it fortunate that he is not sitting at the foot of the couple’s bed‚ waiting for a decisive moment‚ and so the sense of voyeurism is diminished by our knowledge of his absence. But what we do get to see is subtle and insightful. The nightstands are often cluttered and reveal mundane personal belongings. Dogs and cats sleep on the beds and next to the couples on the floor. We see rumpled sheets and blankets‚ funny underwear and an occasional artwork. Since he photographs each couple from the same perspective‚ with the same lighting and lens‚ each image becomes a comparison to the others. This deceptively simple style creates a tension of the moment‚ where we look for the distinguishing details that provide resonance and clarity‚ and indeed they are there. Melanie’s twisted body (Melanie and Erik‚ 2009) with her long blonde hair flowing across the pillow and left hand gently resting on her breasts‚ is reminiscent of Botticelli’s Venus while her partner Erik’s intensely tanned face and bright white shoulder contrasted against his dark‚ tanned arm suggests one of Dorthea Lange’s farm workers. The little pile of clothes an either side suggest slumber overcoming them just as they made it to the bed. Tim’s convoluted position‚ (Kathleen and Tim‚ 2010) makes him look like one of Aaron Siskind’s famous divers. He looks so uncomfortable I want to wake him‚ while partner Kathleen and their dogs are lost in peaceful somnolence.

The Sleepers Book: Detail
Detail