Jen Bekman Projects


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new york city 10012
tel: 212.219.0166

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artist statements: :: Benjamin Donaldson | Summerland

A series of photographs in which subjects are under hypnosis, instructed to experience the most beautiful landscape imaginable.

The title of the series, Summerland was a term used by 19th Century Spiritualists to refer to the afterlife. A contemplation of a possible "heaven" is one of the many places that some of these people may imagine under this hypnotic state. Some other subjects may have a more earthly vision.

I am interested in the expressions that people have while in this hypnotic state, where they are internally experiencing a sublime vista. I have approached this group of pictures as a typology. In this way, the sameness of the images' form allows the viewer to see the differences in each person's gesture and expression more fully. The subject's vision of immense beauty comes from within the imagination, and that hopefully translates, in some way, to his or her image in the photograph. While the viewer has the privilege of knowing the subject's state, the conundrum of never truly knowing what is held within another's mind remains.

The form of the photographs comes from a picture made by Alexander Gardner in 1865 of the Lincoln assassination conspirator Paine. The subject in this picture sits against a pock-marked, insignificant sheet of metal. He stares into the camera with a mix of arrogance and dread. He is a man that knows his life will soon expire. It is a picture that I was fascinated with in my youth. I attempted in these pictures to contain something of the mixture of that tarnished backdrop and a man confronting his end on earth. The background used for these pictures should highlight the difference between the mundane locales that we normally inhabit, and those that we hope for in our imaginations.