Alnwick and District Camera Club

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Sleepers was the title of the presentation given to Alnwick and District Camera Club by club member Micheal Mundy.

Micheal commenced his talk by outlining our fascination with the subject of sleep, using illustrations of paintings, sculpture and other artwork from various stages of our history ranging from ancient Greece to the present day.

Despite the interest in the art world, this has not been a subject widely or systematically treated by photographers. One exception was the American photographer Ted Spagna who used time lapse photography to record people asleep in bed. His pictures have proved to be of great interest to those involved in the scientific study of sleep patterns.

Micheal’s approach to the subject has been a very different one. His interest in death masks led him to create a similar type of image for the faces of sleeping subjects, where the features are completely relaxed and totally different to their appearance whilst awake and alert.

Each subject was seated in a chair with his or her shoulders shrouded with black fabric so that only the head was visible. Micheal then waited while they fell asleep, recording images by daylight using a Leica monochrome camera.

The subsequent images were processed using a range of digital manipulation programmes to produce a series of quite amazing prints, with faces portrayed against a black background. Despite their somewhat sombre appearance, these had a peaceful and tranquil quality that was quite beautiful.

As an offshoot, Micheal also started to photograph people asleep on trains and other modes of public transport. Although these were mostly taken using only an iPhone, the quality of the images was remarkable, proving that it is the photographer rather than the type of camera that is most important when taking pictures. After a while, he became concerned about the ethics of taking such pictures without permission and abandoned this part of the project.

Micheal went on to discuss various implications of people sleeping in public, or in the case of his work, in front of the photographer. This implies an element of trust, which is reassuring in a world where so much uncertainty and conflict is rife.

The evening continued with a presentation of vibrant images of India by Laine Baker and Jane Coltman. Taken on a trip in 2013, their pictures included richly decorated architecture, colourful clothing and smiling people, despite the squalor and poverty that was evident almost everywhere.

Finally, there was a fine gallery of prints by Paul Penman. These featured excellent colour pictures taken in some favourite places visited during the last year, including New York, Venice, Puglia and the Isle of Skye.