The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult

The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult

by Clément Chéroux, Pierre Apraxine, Andreas Fischer, Denis Canguilhem

The mesmerizing photographic history of occult phenomena, from levitations and apparitions to spectres, ghosts, and auras.

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The mesmerizing photographic history of occult phenomena, from levitations and apparitions to spectres, ghosts, and auras.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Given its subject matter, it's no surprise that this massive volume is more than a little spooky-and this despite its eschewing cheap sensationalism in favor of a sober, art historical tack. Focusing primarily on images from the late Victorian era through the 1930s, the authors tackle three major categories in exploring the long relationship between the photograph and occult phenomena. The first, "Photographs of Spirits," explores the appearance of otherworldly beings and objects in photographic images. The second section, "Photographs of Fluids," reveals how the discovery of the effects of radiation on the photographic plate coincided with an explosion in the photography of radiances, auras and other "effluvia." Rife as they are with obvious trickery and manipulation of the film itself, these two sections offer a fascinating perspective on the photographic medium's early formal and technological development, but the final section, "Photographs of Mediums," provides genuine visceral impact and aesthetic depth. Depicting mediums and onlookers in the midst of seances, these images capture the essentially human face of occult occurrences, be they actual or fraudulent. Levitation, the appearance of the "ectoplasmic veil" and other "materializations" pale beside the awe and ecstasy pictured in these photos' earthly subjects. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The emergence of spiritualism and the invention of photography coincided in the mid-19th century. By the 1860s, the camera was considered more "credible" than the human eye, making it the perfect tool for capturing the supernatural. In this thorough and fascinating catalog, which accompanies a major exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art appearing through December 2005, the history and practice of spirit photography is examined. These rare, controversial images are divided into three categories: "Photographs of Spirits" (images of "spirits" and "ghosts" on film), "Photographs of Fluids" (images made directly from the mediums' actual bodies), and "Photographs of Mediums" (photographs of mediums at work). Each section contains extensive scholarly essays and historical case studies on all aspects of the genre of spirit photography by historian of photography Cheroux, curator Andreas Fischer, Pierre Apraxine (director, Howard Gilman Foundation, New York), art dealer Denis Canguilhem, and film editor/screenwriter Sophie Schmit. Generously illustrated with more than 250 fantastic color images of alleged fairies, ghosts, skeletons, levitations, s ances, and psychic auras drawn from the archives of American and European occult societies and private and public collections, this book is as entertaining as it is enlightening. Recommended for all graduate collections.-Shauna Frischkorn, Millersville Univ., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

Yale University Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
Product dimensions:
9.24(w) x 11.64(h) x 1.19(d)

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