Musée d'Orsay: Anonymous Spiritualist Photography

Spiritualist Photography

Spiritualist Photography (Medium and Ghosts)
Spiritualist Photography (Medium and Ghosts)
Circa 1910
Silver print
H. 14; W. 9.8 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Photographie spirite (médium et spectre d'enfant)
Photographie spirite (trois silhouettes spectrales)
Photographie spirite (spectre d'indien)
Photographie spirite (médium et spectre de femme)

Photographie spirite (médium et spectres) [Spiritualist Photography (Medium and Ghosts)]

Spiritualist photography, catching the imprint of the "fluid atmosphere vibrating around the edges of a person like the outward signs of his inner, personal force" was very much in vogue from the 1890s. The resulting photographs are extremely interesting, revealing ghostly images which reach their finest expression in the Futurist prints by Bragaglia in 1913 or in certain photographs by the painter Edvard Munch and the writer, painter and photographer August Strindberg.
Spiritualist photography from the turn of the century was a historical movement. It was practised by pseudo-scientists in spiritualist groups or, as may be the case here, by amateur photographers.
This image was taken from an album compiled in the United States which contained one hundred and twenty-eight spiritualist photographs. As always in this kind of work, the photographer tried to bring out what the human eye cannot see—apparitions, auras or ghosts.
The album shows portraits of men and women with superimposed images to represent ghosts. Among them, there are Indians and the double of Abraham Lincoln. The costumes are obviously from the turn of the last century. The title of the album, written in golden and coloured Gothic script: Mors Janua bitar and a verse from Robert Burns' poem at the end: "Auld Lang Syne. Should auld acquaintance be forgot. And never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot. And days of auld lang syne?" are typical of spiritualist imprecations.