Animisme et Spiritisme
The practice known as spirit photography pushes the limits of what we consider photographic by seeking to represent the spiritual, rather than the physical and visible, on the photographic plate. The practice of spirit photography also points towards nineteenth-century tendencies to manipulate the image—a kind of photoshop before photoshop.
Though we don’t consider a belief in spirits “scientific” today, this practice holds similarities to scientific practices that have sought to capture what is invisible to the human eye photographically, such as x-ray photographs and Muybridge’s motion photographs. Of course the extent to which each of these examples is manipulated to produce an image of what was previously invisible varies. One of the most well-known nineteenth-century spirit photographers is William Mumler, who claimed to have photographed Abraham Lincoln's ghost.
You will notice that Animisme et Spiritisme (Animism and Spiritualism) does not actually contain any photographs. Rather, it contains engravings based on photographs, attesting to the continued difficulties of printing photographs side by side with text in an efficient manner. Yet it is noteworthy that the texts framing the engravings insist on their photographic origins.
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21.4 x 13.0 cm
BF 1262 A32 1895