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Hollis Frampton , (Mar 11, 1936–Mar 30, 1984)

A Visitation of Insomnia

10 3/8 in. x 10 3/8 in. (26.35 cm x 26.35 cm)

Medium and Support: twenty-four gelatin silver prints drymounted photographs matted in six parts
Credit Line: gift of Marion Faller
Accession Number: 1990.87.1-24


Although best known for his pioneering work in avant-garde film, Phillips Academy alumnus Hollis Frampton was also a photographer. A keen interest in the perceptual aspects of photography also found in film and a dissatisfaction with the limited nature of most single photographic images prompted Frampton to investigate the proto-cinematic history of serial photography. Frampton’s fascination with nineteenth-century photographers E. J. Marey and Eadweard Muybridge, both of who explored ideas of motion and time in their work, is reflected in his writings, films, and photographs. While the long exposures of A Visitation with Insomnia resemble Marey’s chronophotographs, which similarly incorporated multiple exposures of ghostly motion into one image, the subject’s performance of simple exercises and movements recall Muybridge’s human studies in Animal Locomotion. Opening with an image of the nude’s arrival, advancing through a series of movements, and then concluding with her departure, the twenty-four images that make up this narrative correspond to the number of frames contained in one second of film. Blurring the lines between photography and film, A Visitation was made at the same time as Frampton’s film Vernal Equinox; in fact a section of the film features the same nude subject. The series title is taken from the final line of Frampton’s first major essay, “For a Metahistory of Film—Commonplace Notes and Hypotheses,” in which he writes: “Film has finally attracted its own Muse. Her name is Insomnia.”

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