New Book on Spirit Photography

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New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by zerdini on Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:21 am

Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography by Martyn Jolly

Faces of the Living Dead
Ghosts, spiritualist mediums, sťances, ectoplasm and auras..


Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography, a new British Library publication by Martyn Jolly, examines the phenomenon of spirit photography that developed in the 1870s and is the first book of its kind to bring together the extensive collection of spirit photographs from the British Library's Barlow Collection.

Illustrated by works of the leading spirit photographers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Ada Deane, William Hope, Frederick Hudson and Edward Wyllie it also includes spirit photographs of one of spirit photography's most high-profile advocates, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes.

The craze for photographing 'spirits' was rooted in the popularity of Spiritualism and psychic research that developed during the period from the 1860s to the 1930s. The appearance of ghostly figures, spirit writing and ectoplasm in these portraits was considered by many as nothing short of miraculous. In 1874 the eminent chemist and physicist William Crookes used the galvanic light of electric lamps to photograph the beautiful figure of the spirit Katie King, which had supposedly been materialized by the young Hackney medium Florence Cook.

On Armistice Day in 1922 the Spirit Photographer Ada Deane stood above the crowd at the London Cenotaph and exposed her photographic plate for the entire duration of the Two Minutes Silence. On development, a river of disembodied faces had been recorded floating above the crowd. These were said to be the faces of fallen soldier returning from the Other Side.

Later, in 1925 a researcher from the Society for Psychical Research travelled to Boston to investigate an ectoplasmic medium called Margery. Setting up a camera and flash apparatus he captured what appeared to be an ectoplasmic hand, supposedly a partially formed spirit entity, being expelled from between Margery's legs.

Although subsequently proved to be fakes, the ghostly figures, spirit writing and ectoplasm that appeared in these photographs were regarded by the contemporary viewer as miraculous, poignant messages, and an important means of contact with lost loved ones as post-First-World-War grief swept Europe. Spirit photographers became celebrities, sought after by grieving individuals, and reviled by others as shameless frauds, preying on vulnerable people for their own gain.

As the Spiritualist movement gained momentum in the late nineteenth century, spirit photography attracted a range of high profile advocates as well as scientific researchers and proved to be a powerful, contentious and sensational phenomenon of its time. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, himself a spiritual evangelist, was a powerful supporter of spiritualism whilst Harry Houdini, with whom he maintained a close friendship, upheld a scepticism that Conan Doyle believed prevented spiritual activity occurring in his presence.

Martyn Jolly who wrote Faces of the Living Dead said: "In the end, spirit photography turned out to not be a scientific truth, or a religious miracle. But, for its historical time, it remains an extraordinary act of collective imagination. Together, gullible clients, cunning mediums, opportunistic mentors and hubristic investigators created a rich imaginative economy where ideas, images and interpretations circulated, cross infected and interpenetrated each other."

For further information, images, or review copies please contact Victoria Main at the British Library Press Office: +44 (0)20 7412 7112 or Victoria.Main@bl.uk
Notes for Editors

Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography by Martyn Jolly, is published in hardback by the British Library, 31 May 2006, price £20.00 (160 Pages, 240 X 220mm, 100 black and white illustrations ISBN 0 7123 4899 9). The book is available from the British Library Shop (tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7735, fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7624, email: bl-bookshop@bl.uk)

Martyn Jolly is an artist and a writer. He is Head of Photomedia at the Australian National University School of Art. He has been researching Spiritualist photography for several years as part of a larger project on the idea of the fake in photography. In 2001 he was curator of an exhibition of spirit photographs in Australia.

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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by zerdini on Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:26 am


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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by Guest on Thu Aug 06, 2009 8:55 pm

[quote="zerdini"]Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography by Martyn Jolly

[i]Faces of the Living Dead
Ghosts, spiritualist mediums, sťances, ectoplasm and auras..[/i




Interesting that the author has appropriated the title of a book about the greatest psychic artist to date, Frank Leah.

Alan

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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by zerdini on Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:24 pm

[quote="Alan"]
zerdini wrote:Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography by Martyn Jolly

[i]Faces of the Living Dead
Ghosts, spiritualist mediums, sťances, ectoplasm and auras..[/i




Interesting that the author has appropriated the title of a book about the greatest psychic artist to date, Frank Leah.

Alan

The book is published by the Britsh Library who should know better!

Review copies please contact Victoria Main at the British Library Press Office: +44 (0)20 7412 7112 or Victoria.Main@bl.uk

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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by Guest on Thu Aug 06, 2009 9:38 pm

The book is published by the Britsh Library who should know better!

Review copies please contact Victoria Main at the British Library Press Office: +44 (0)20 7412 7112 or Victoria.Main@bl.uk[/quote]



How interesting, Z. I shall prompt them to send a review copy to Psychic News. I'm sure the editor would be interested.

Alan

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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by tmmw on Thu Aug 06, 2009 11:22 pm

Hello Z,

How interesting and what a coincidence, I am going to take a class given by Lionel Owen here in the US on spirit photography and he is going to show a slide show of some of the work of Ada Deane! I look forward to the class in September. I did find a nice link with some more images that Ada Deane took along with other mediums including those taken by the Hope Circle which Lionel's father attended (Correction: it is actually Lionel's uncle Robert not his father who attended Hope's Crewe Circle). It is a partial Google book called "The Perfect Medium" http://books.google.com/books?id=EfBf1dNkadoC&pg=PT84&lpg=PT84&dq=ada+Deane&source=bl&ots=NXm5eT3DMf&sig=vFSPnwU48BbsuatocfdOtyexaeE&hl=en&ei=NvZsSpOqGoPaNr6ktfkG&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10#v=onepage&q=ada%20Deane&f=false

Thanks Z for sharing that post and the information on how to obtain the book.

Take care,
Lynn[strike]


Last edited by tmmw on Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:56 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : correction and spelling)

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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:43 am

Synchronicity here Lynn, I publish a picture and Z puts up some great background (see his piece on Ada Deane in the Physical mediums thread) then you are off to this class.

Have fun

Jim
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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:00 am

Fascinating if you have a look here you will see this book grew from an exhibition in Aus in 2001
http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/2976262
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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by Admin on Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:46 am

Interview on Radio National ABC Aus with Martin Jolly 10/09/06

Spirit Photography
|Download Audio - 10092006 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ark/stories/2006/1733596.htm

Ghost figures, floating faces, and swirls of ectoplasm appeared in photographic portraits by men and women who set up shop as 'spirit photographers' between the 1860s and 1930s.


Rachael Kohn: Imagine someone taking your photo, and the picture reveals a nice image of you, and a ghostly image of a dead loved one floating somewhere above your head?


Hello, this is The Ark on ABC Radio National and I'm Rachael Kohn.


Taking photos was a spooky art in the 19th century - just think of the photographer disappearing under a black cloth? Could he be communing with spirits? Some people thought film could capture those elusive beings that filled the atmosphere. Martyn Jolly has produced a wonderful book, filled with spirit photography, which was all the rage from the 1860s to the 1930s. Martyn's speaking to me from Canberra.


Martyn Jolly: Most of the photographs that I talk about come from two collections. The first is at the British Library in London, and that's a large collection that was given to them in the early 1960s that had been assembled in the 1920s. And the second collection came from the Cambridge University Library. They hold the archives of an organisation called the SPR, the Society for Psychical Research.


Rachael Kohn: And so are these photographs all British?


Martyn Jolly: No, there was a phenomena that happened in Britain certainly, but it had its origins in America in North America, so there was quite a lot of activity across the Western world I suppose, but particularly in the United States and London.


Rachael Kohn: Well I think the earliest photograph that I recall seeing in your book is dated 1871, so photography was obviously in its infancy, but it was also a time when spiritualism was on the rise, that is, communicating with departed spirits. What was fuelling that interest?


Martyn Jolly: I think there are several factors. You're quite right, both photography and spiritualism and in a way, new sciences of communication were all burgeoning at the same time, the 1850s, 1860s, 1870s, and they very much go hand-in-hand.


So you've got new technologies that allow you to see things that couldn't be seen before, to record things that couldn't be recorded before, the telegraph, the overseas telegraph technology, kind of gave a scientific analogy for people who were thinking about the possibility of communicating with those distant, in terms of being beyond on the other side.


Rachael Kohn: That was also the time shortly after the American Civil War, so I guess certainly in America, people would have been pretty traumatised.


Martyn Jolly: They certainly were, and photography was becoming part of the ways that they dealt with their trauma. So you have photographers who are making a living out of producing images of the battlefields of the Civil War that are then sold in the major cities in America, and also photographers who are beginning to take photographs of the soldiers before they go off to the Civil War. And in a way, spirit photography is just an extension of how photography was used.


So if somebody had gone to the war and had died there, you felt this enormous sense of loss, of grief, but you also potentially had these new technologies that could allow you to reconnect with the person that you have lost. One of the photographers who put it into practice was a photographer called William Mumler.


Rachael Kohn: What did he do? Was he actually taking photographs?


Martyn Jolly: He was an engraver based in Boston who like many people, moved into photography, but his wife was also a spiritualist medium, so you would go to him and you would have a sťance where you would try to make contact with those who had departed, but the medium would be the photographic medium.


Rachael Kohn: Right, so on the one hand you have a willing audience, or a willing public who want to believe in spirits, and on the other hand this kind of technology that supposedly brings you objective proof?


Martyn Jolly: I think so, yes. Because you would go to Mumler, you had this desire, you would tell him who you were trying to see, you'd sit before the camera which had its own mysteries, it's own proven power as a instrument for recording and remembering. You'd have your portrait taken and even that in itself was a special moment. Then you would come back maybe a few days later, and you would see your own image there, but also in the print would be another face, or another figure.


That, he would explain to you, was some spirit who had also been there with you whilst you were posing, visible to the photographic emulsion, and they had joined you on the photographic plate.


Rachael Kohn: Now this kind of thing required some clever sleight of hand I think with those glass plates to get that sort of desired result. Who were some of the real pros at it?


Martyn Jolly: Mumler had it fairly easy. He was working in the 1860s because he did most of his double exposure in the printing process, but by the time you get to the 1920s, we're having these spirits that were called 'extras' appearing on the actual negative itself, and there was a whole variety of ways that you could make that happen. That is, if you were the medium photographer, you would ask for the plates to be sent to you beforehand, supposedly so you could keep them near your body to be activated by your own animal magnetism.


Rachael Kohn: Magnetism?


Martyn Jolly: So that's tapping into the 19th century idea of mesmerism, connection between different living beings. So if you were able to get the plate early, then you could pre-expose a spirit onto the plate and then slip it back into the carton of plates.


If the person was a little bit more wary than that, and your client was more wary than that, there is a way of maybe switching the plate so you'd do a sort of sleight of hand in the darkroom, and switch a plate over when it was being loaded into the dark slide. And even if they were a bit too canny for that, there were other devices which were like little flashlights where you would have a transparency in a small little flashlight, and you'd have that literally up your sleeve, and would press it against the plate and press a button and quickly expose the extra spirit figure onto the plate. So there were lots of ways that it could be done, depending on the circumstances.


Rachael Kohn: Now Martyn, you mentioned extras and these are the spirits that occur and they could be quite interesting. Many of them from the Far East, but who were these extras supposed to be?


Martyn Jolly: As spirit photography progressed, there was increasingly elaborate explanations developed to explain what they were seeing, so the extras could be somebody who had crossed over who wanted to re-appear to their loved ones, but they could also be spirit guides.


Most spirit mediums claimed to have spirit guides who were kind of go-betweens between them and the spirits waiting on the other side, and you're quite right, in the 1920s and '30s, even earlier, there was a kind of a prestige I suppose attached to spirit guides that came from other cultures. So American Indians were very popular as were subcontinental Indians as spirit guides. Even they could be almost like simulacra of spirits.


So often spirit photographers were caught out with reproducing the same face twice, and the explanation that came through from the other side it had been a mould that had been made on the other side, and this mould had been re-used in order to economise, it was claimed, on spirit energy.


Rachael Kohn: Well there were certainly some prominent people involved in this movement, and one of them came to Australia, none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote 'Sherlock Holmes', now what was he doing here?


Martyn Jolly: Conan Doyle became converted to spiritualism after the First World War and that was a period similar to the Civil War you mentioned before, where there was a huge upsurge, an interest in spiritualism because there were so many dead people around, so much grief around because of the death toll of the war, and the flu epidemic. And Conan Doyle, like many spiritualists, had been affected by the war. His son had died as a result of wounds received in the war, and he'd also lost other close relatives, and he became a convert, and became a sort of head P.R. person if you like.


He went on a crusade, he was very much a crusader by nature, Conan Doyle, and did tours of North America and of Australia with lantern slide lectures which were supposedly scientifically proving the truth of the spiritualist revelation, and that's what brought him to Australia, where he was welcomed and a huge amount of people attended his lantern slide lectures, right through Australia and New Zealand as well.


Rachael Kohn: Didn't he also defend some of the spirit photographers who were exposed as frauds?


Martyn Jolly: Yes, he did. He would defend almost anybody really. He was often thought of as being far too credulous, but he saw that as his job, and he had the money, he had the rhetorical skill to defend them. So he wrote several books where he specifically defended two of the major English photographers, William Hope and Ada Dean after they had been exposed, saying how they were poor simple mediums who weren't asking for very much money when they were doing their sittings, were working class people that couldn't possibly be so clever as to pull off these sleights of hand.


Rachael Kohn: One of the things that is so interesting about your reflection on this whole phenomenon in your epilogue, is that even when people were unmasked as frauds, their clients refused to believe that, and they maintained their belief that these photographs were indeed of their departed loved ones.


Martyn Jolly: I think that's why I find this whole area so interesting.


It's very easy to dismiss the clients as just being credulous dupes of the charlatans, and in one sense they were, but in another sense they were indulging or taking part in a very productive production of imaginative ideas, stories, beliefs, that did give them real comfort, real solace, a real feeling of connection. So they were getting a lot out of their beliefs.


They were feeling that they were connected both to the spiritualist community, and they could reconnect to their family, to the cosmos on some level. So there's really nothing in it for them to say Yes, I was wrong, I was duped, because they were getting so much out of it, and there's always somebody else there who was willing to take the role of the other medium.


Rachael Kohn: Well Martyn, when did spirit photography really meet its demise? Was it when Kodak developed the Brownie camera for everyone?


Martyn Jolly: No, actually I think that's one of the reasons why I think spirit photography did have a resurgence in the 1920s and '30s, was because of the Kodak camera, so that we're all using the camera to record our families and put them in our family albums, and many of these spirit photographs I talk about, did actually end up in family albums. They could have the images of the dead, side by side on the same page with images of the living, so it was a way of family photography in a sense.


And spirit photography, it's still with us in a residual way. We don't have the mediums currently working who are using the camera, I don't think, as part of their repertoire. Most mediums now sort of just report what they hear or see, but we still have from time to time people who use the camera to photograph ghosts or photographs spirit phenomena. In fact you've even had some of those yourself on your show, and I was very intrigued to hear last year I think, you interviewed a Victorian spiritualist. She told the story of a man who had photographed in a creek bed in Victoria, with a digital camera, and when he got the camera home and put the images on his computer, he saw the spirits of three Aborigines. That struck me as being not dissimilar to the way that spiritualists in the 1930s were seeing photography with the medium itself being used as a way for the other side to make itself visible.


Rachael Kohn: Yes, and I guess the whole world of spiritualism could be seen by some as being anti-Christian, as being the occult, but it seems to me that some people thought their Christian beliefs were reaffirmed by these photographs. So I wonder whether spirit photography has ever captured the Holy Spirit? Has it ever been used in that way?


Martyn Jolly: Never directly to my knowledge. There was certainly a bit of crossover between spiritualism and the conventional mainstream churches, because spiritualism was such a broad popular movement, but some of the recent apparitions of the Virgin in Australia I understand they've been photographed occasionally, so photography is still used every now and again, but not in that kind of broad popular social movement that I'm interested in.


Rachael Kohn: And it includes photos of Ectoplasm, definitely the strangest photos that Martyn Jolly's collected for his book Faces of the Living Dead. He's head of Photomedia at the School of Art at the Australian National University in Canberra.


Next week, meet George Saliba from Columbia University, who reveals the role of Islamic science in the Renaissance.


That's on The Ark, with me, Rachael Kohn.



Guests
Martyn Jolly
is Head of Photomedia at the Australian National University School of Art.


Publications
Title: Faces of the Living Dead: The Belief in Spirit Photography
Author: Martyn Jolly
Publisher: Melbourne University Press, 2006
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Re: New Book on Spirit Photography

Post by tmmw on Sat Aug 15, 2009 1:53 pm

Hi all,

I want to correct my post above where I wrote "Images... by other mediums including those taken by the Hope Circle which Lionel's father attended." It is actually Lionel's uncle Robert who was a member of William Hope's Crewe Circle not his father.

I just received my copy of the book "Faces of the Living Dead" and I find it most interesting. It is well done.

Lynn

tmmw


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