In “Sleep of the Beloved,” the photographer Paul Schneggenburger takes 6 hour exposure shots of slumbering, snuggling, writhing couples. The artist asks each pair of lovers to lay their weary bodies on a bed in his own apartment, his dark sheets lit gently by candlelight. The movements of the beloveds, sometimes sweeping and sometimes jolting, are all captured on film.
As the subjects’ fleshy tones and unconscious turning blur the lines between individuals, each couple emerges as a vital, breathing organism; the two appear to move as one, thrusting themselves beyond the confines of the charcoal bed. The long exposure serves to flatten time, creating the illusion of synchronized movement; couples appear as if reaching for one another at one precise moment, as if driven to touch, to bridge the gap between two separate dreamscapes.
Schneggenburger captures lovers at their most vulnerable; in the place of lucid, posed faces, the portraits offer slackened features glazed over by sleep, revealing startlingly intimate communications. As each pair enters into a wordless conversation, they express secret desires with the utmost abandon. Some grab and cling urgently to one another; others press their semi-nude bodies close. Pairs of lovers distance themselves, carving out private, isolated nooks within the bedding.
Each recorded face, filmed over the course of a long night, betrays countless emotions and yearnings. Capturing dreamy moments of peace and restlessness within each single frame, “Sleep of the Beloved” blurs the lines between the erotic, the lonesome, and the blissful, painting a beautifully complex, honest, and raw portrait of love and intimacy.