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Summerland


August 1, 2011

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

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

“Summerland” was used by nineteenth-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.

The form of the photographs comes from a picture made by Alexander Gardner in 1865 of the Lincoln assassination conspirator Lewis Paine. The subject in this picture sits against a pockmarked, insignificant sheet of metal. A man who knows his life will soon expire, he stares into the camera with a mix of arrogance and dread. I was fascinated with the picture 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.

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Benjamin Donaldson’s photographs are in the collection of the Yale University Libraries as well as several private collections. His work has been published in the New Yorker, The New York Times, Nylon, Time Magazine Style, and W, among others. He is currently a full-time lecturer in the photography program at the Yale University School of Art.

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