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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Ted Spagna

Ted Spagna was a truly fascinating photographer who took photos of people and animals in timed intervals. Sometimes the intervals were every fifteen minutes, or every night. By doing this, Spagna not only created visually engaging photosets, but helped scientists to study patterns of activity during sleep and find evidence of the different stages of sleep (ie. REM and NREM sleep). I completely love the idea of documentative photography which shows a progression of activity over a pro-longed period of time. I'm attracted to the potential to learn about the things we're unaware of during sleep. Spagna would install a camera over the consenting person or couple's bed and set it to a timer and leave it untouched for the duration of the study. In this way the people being photographed could forget about the presence of the camera and behave naturally.

One particular project which piqued my interest was Spagna's study of a couple over the course of a few months. At the beginning of the project the couple slept close together and showed signs of affection in their body language and movements, but as the weeks and months wore on, they began to sleep further apart and with stiffer posture and movements until they eventually seperated. I really like the fact that a series of still images told the intimate story of a relationship from an objective perspective. The photographer played no part in the pictures other than to install the camera; the observation was completely unbiased and covert. It's simple and understated yet holds so much information.

Having pictured people sleeping for years, Spagna branched out to animals in captivity and developed animal-proof cameras after several were smashed by irritated creatures. Sadly I haven't been able to track down any of these images on the internet, but I've read that Spagna used long exposures when capturing the animals creating ghostly images that showed the history of movement. He even photographed sleeping flamingos which I would love to see, I can imagine the colours and movement of a flock of large birds would look fantastic when taken with a long exposure.

Here are some websites with more information on Ted Spagna:

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