The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occultby Clement Cheroux, Pierre Apraxine, Andreas Fischer, Denis Canguilhem, Sophie Schmit
In the early days of photography, many believed and hoped that the camera would prove more efficient than the human eye in capturing the unseen. Spiritualists and animists of the nineteenth century seized on the new technology as a method of substantiating the existence of supernatural beings and happenings. This fascinating book assembles more than 250
In the early days of photography, many believed and hoped that the camera would prove more efficient than the human eye in capturing the unseen. Spiritualists and animists of the nineteenth century seized on the new technology as a method of substantiating the existence of supernatural beings and happenings. This fascinating book assembles more than 250 photographic images from the Victorian era to the 1960s, each purporting to document an occult phenomenon: levitations, apparitions, transfigurations, ectoplasms, spectres, ghosts, and auras. Drawn from the archives of European and American occult societies and private and public collections, the photographs in many cases have never before been published.
The Perfect Medium studies these rare and remarkable photographs through cultural, historical, and artistic lenses. More than mere curiosities, the images on film are important records of the cultural forces and technical methods that brought about their production. They document in unexpected ways a period when developing photographic technology merged with a popular obsession with the occult to create a new genre of haunting experimental photographs.
- Yale University Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- New Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 9.00(w) x 11.00(h) x (d)
Meet the Author
CLÉMENT CHÉROUX is a historian of photography and assistant editor-in-chief of the review Études photographiques. ANDREAS FISCHER is the Curator of Photographs at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg, Germany. PIERRE APRAXINE is director of the Howard Gilman Foundation in New York. DENIS CANGUILHEM is an art dealer living in Paris. SOPHIE SCHMIT is a film editor and screenwriter.
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THE PERFECT MEDIUM: Photography and the Occult is first a catalogue for an exhibition now titillating the public at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Hopefully this exhibition will travel: if this fine book/catalogue is any indication of the exciting realms the exhibition explores, it should be a popular success.For those who regularly visit channelers, mediums, spiritualists, or who follow tales and histories of the world of the occult then this volume of history and photographs will not be as shocking as it is for those less willing to suspend logic. The photographs contained in this book trace auras, spirits, and phenomena dating form Victorian times to the 1930s. It would appear that the advent of the camera proved to confirm the dalliances of the mediums who summoned the spirits of the departed for the eager (and willing to pay!) clients. Photographs here show weird auras, shadows of beings, and phenomena not readily seen by the critical eye: are these the tomfoolery of the photographer manipulating photographic plates, staged bizarre frameworks that defy explanation outside the camera lens, or are these truly captured moments? That is for the viewer and the fine writers to dissect.The latter portion of the book samples photographic portraits of various mediums, at times alone and at times with their assembled clients. One of particular interest is the medium Eugenie Picquart who was said to enter a trance and 'become' the voice and guise of Sarah Bernhardt and Mephistopheles! Spectacular theatrics that glow with both humor and invention - at the expense of the clients! The first spirit photographer, one William Mumler, concocted a photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln with the spirit of the deceased Abraham at her side. Such was the credibility of public in the PT Barnum age - and beyond. It is a book that opens the discussion of what is photographic art - representation or manipulation of an image - and if it is both (as we routinely see in galleries today), it is a powerful addition to the history of art making. This is an entertaining, well-presented book of images only imagined by most. Highly recommended. Grady Harp