Art & Photography

Like Someone Alive

In a new book, Dorothy Sing Zhang captures a selection of people asleep in their beds.

Some time ago, Zhang took an interest in capturing the means of triggering the shutter – experimenting initially with a pull-up bar and a cable release. This new project, Like Someone Alive, takes that to its extreme, removing any active photographer entirely. Zhang and/or an assistant set up an overhead camera and place a trigger in the bed, then leave. When the image is captured, it’s a mater of chance, totally subverting the relationship between photographer and subject. 

What’s your relationship with sleep like?

I’m suffered as an insomniac for many years. All insomniacs have one desire: to sleep.

Did the people who said yes have anything in common? 

I suppose the people that agreed to it have some characteristics in common. High in curiosity low in cautiousness. I probably would have said no.

Were there any other constraints you encountered that you were surprised by?

The production was similar to drawing a circle. Although uncertain about the specific events that would occur within it, the premise of the game is clear. Like a football field.

These end up looking constructed – which I love; some even look like biblical references. How candid do you feel these sleep scenes are?

They are as candid as they appear to be. I’m interested in this genre of documentary photography where you make a set of rules and allow the subjects to behave within them.

Do any stick out to you? I liked the twist of some phone cameras looking up.

I think of these images as one picture. Inevitably there are personal narratives and individuality but again they are inescapable.