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The history of spirit photograph

Added Fri, 16/06/2017
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Spirit photography - a genre of photography, fashion which came in the second half of the 19th century, along with sessions of spiritualism. In such photographs allegedly contains objects that appeared from the other world (ghosts, spirits of relatives or friends of persons requesting such photograph).

At the very beginning of historywhen photography first appeared, the appearance of "ghosts" in the photos was caused by accidents, the causes of which were both the errors of photographers and photographic features of the technologies and materials of the time. The most famous such image is the photo of Prince Arthur, taken by court photographer Roger Fenton in 1854.

The maid that entered the frame at the moment of photographing Prince Arthur

On the right side of the young Prince in the photo you can see clearly who is present "Ghost." This is actually the figure of a maid that moved in the frame, so as was concerned that the Prince can fall off the low pedestal on which he posed. The process of photography at that time was assumed long enough exposure to ensure the necessary intensity of chemical reaction on the plates. Thus, if the object appeared for a short time in front of the lens (or have moved during the exposure), it appeared on the blurred, transparent, "ghostly" figure. Now this effect is also possible, but it usually is not a Fluke but a result of the intent of the photographer.

Another feature of the photographs is the high cost of materials and economical to them. For example, glass was expensive, so the glass negatives were cleaned and re-used. It is sometimes on the negative remained fragments from the previous session, which when photographing superimposed on the new image.

After some time photographers have mastered and the basics of photomontage to reproduce this effect. Having understood the principle, they were deliberately create such pictures, and to showcase their work to the General public. At first this was done exclusively as proof of the boundless possibilities of photography.

Over time this effect was used for entertainment. Ghosts and other transparent non-material entity (for example, guardian angels from the infant) were not uncommon in photos of the 19th century. For example, in the late 1850s by the London Stereoscopic Company produced a series of stereocarto, which was called "Ghost in the stereoscope".

The London stereoscopic company. Photo of a series of stereocarto "Ghost in the stereoscope", 1850

As this became widespread, then the effect is a bit boring. Ordinary people did not take these images seriously, and photographers began to consider the application of this effect is a manifestation of bad taste and an insult to the noble art of photography. For some time, the stream of photos with the "ghosts" dried up, replaced by other popular effects of the time.

However, the picture was way to image not only the physical outlines of objects, but is invisible, inaccessible to the human eye. For example, Talbot "the Pencil of nature," writes about the existence of the mysterious rays that allow you to take pictures in the dark.

"The scene in the library", which depicts a shelf of books, Talbot accompanied by the following comment:

"When a beam of sunlight is refracted in the prism and falls on a screen, it forms a beautiful coloured band known as ultraviolet. Experiments have shown that if a range falls on a sheet of photosensitive paper, the main effect it produces ultraviolet region; and what is truly remarkable, a similar effect produced, the invisible rays which lie beyond violet and abroad spectrum and whose existence can be detected only through the effect which they produce. Now I would propose to separate these invisible rays from the rest, allowing them to penetrate into the adjoining space through the hole in the wall or partition. This space thus filled (we can't say illuminated) with invisible rays, which can be distributed in all directions of a convex lens which is placed behind the diaphragm. If the room were several people, none of them could see the other; however, if the camera was turned in the direction where there is one, she would remove his portrait, and would find his actions".

It changed the narrow-minded view of photography, mixing science and mysticism.

In the early sixties of the 19th century, along with humorous pictures French magician eugène Thibault was born spiritual photography using the same technique. Her ancestor is William Mamler (William Mumler), an Amateur photographer from Boston, who worked as a jeweler-engraver. He studied photography in the Studio of his friend. where he made his first pictures of ghosts. His method was that he "first focused the lens on an empty seat, took off the lens cap, and then quickly took a position beside the chair and stood there for as long as the exposure doesn't work".

He told the public about his work, showed pictures and over time acquired a large flow of customers. It turned out that quite a lot of people would like once again to feel the presence of close relatives and loved ones, but departed from our world of people. He left job and retrained as a photographer has gained prominence, prestige and financial well-being. All of this contributed to his marketing talent – he himself promoted, bringing samples of their products for Assembly of spiritualists and publishing ads in the theme spiritualistic journals.


The newspaper is a spirit photograph

Despite the fact that methods of obtaining "photos of ghosts" was known for a long time, Mumler was accused of cheating immediately, but only after several years. Many photographers believed that he not only fools people, but also undermines the credibility of photography as a means of facing the apparent reality, whose aim is to tell the truth. The case went to court, but despite allegations and media hype, the reputation of Mumler it is almost not affected. After the noise died down, he continued to engage in profitable business and even took a few photos known to this day.

And it was really profitable. These photos were worth much more expensive than usual. In America the 1860s it was possible to get his photo for a few cents in a Studio, and a photo of Mumler cost 5 to 10 dollars. Therefore, spirit photography became engaged and other photographers not only in the US but around the world. For example, the Frenchman Edouard Bugey, which, after similar allegations pleaded guilty. He even pointedly retrained in "anti-spiritual" photographer, doing everything the same, only with opposite sign, indicating that those photos are hoaxes, stunts, tricks.

"Anti-spiritualistic" photography Bugey. The "Ghost" holding a table with inscription: "Better Mesmer, and Cagliostro. Ghosts on the premises. Success is guaranteed. Invisible manipulation under the noses of the client. Tricks of the mediums."

Also known Richard Boursnell, David Duguid, Edward Wiley, Emma Dean, William hope, and many others. These photographers was supported by the spiritualist society. Out books and articles on spiritualist photography, the authors tried to justify the possibility of the existence of such images. For example, the famous work of Arthur Conan Doyle, one of the most famous supporters of the idea of photographing ghosts: the article "Facts in favor of a spirit photograph" and a Chapter in the book "History of spiritualism".

However, these publications were not saved from exposure and endless debate around this topic.

B 1909 an attempt was made to explore a spirit photograph, to determine, are they actual photos of spirits or plain fraud. The Commission consisted of three skeptics: R. child Bayley, F. J. Mortimer, and E. Sanger-shepherd, and three supporters a spirit photograph: Alfred Percy Sinnett (which he presented to the Commission their photos), E. R. Zyrcold-Scelsa and Robert king. They have not performed field experiments and evaluated the made earlier photos of the spirits sent to the newspaper "Daily Mail". The Commission's report was published in the free daily newspaper "London Lite", and the results were disappointing:

  • none of the pictures, the present edition was not made under conditions precluding fraud.
  • photos submitted by Mr. Sinetta, was clearly the result of forgery;
  • more photos satisfy the conditions that were put forward by the editors, but they found no traces of the object of the other world; attended only by the image defects due to careless manipulation, which have been mistaken by their creators for supernatural results.

Also against the spirit photograph was made by famous figures, such as Dmitry Mendeleev and writer Ronald Pirsel.

Thus, spirit photography lost its popularity, currently, is extremely rare and is not actually a commercial activity.

Translated by «Yandex.Translator»


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