Sunday, October 10

Ghost Images

Fall is the perfect season for this subject, spirit photography. From the very beginning of the invention of Photography, it has been the perfect medium for gathering "evidence" of ghostly activity among the living. It's an intriguing idea that departed loved ones continue to watch over us in life, for the living anyway; for the dead it seems terribly sad though, to deny them of heaven AND earth. To say that they must continue to watch the goings on of humanity but can no longer participate, nor can they go to be with the creator. Instead, the reality is that the majority of photographs that seem to prove that humanity has ghostly company are really just the result of photographic phenomenon, and entrepreneurial photographers who are willing to capitalize on people's losses and hopes. The most popular method for creating the illusion of a ghost is by using a double exposure; the photographer takes one image and then exposes another image directly on top of the first one. One of the most famous images of this process is the following of Mary Todd Lincoln with the apparent ghost of Abraham Lincoln by William Mumler. This was probably achieved by exposing a photograph of Abraham Lincoln, from popular media, to the plate before taking the actual photograph of Mary Lincoln. Though he was never found guilty of fraud, Mumler did go to trial for it, and the whole ordeal ended his career as a spiritual medium.
Mumler wasn't alone in being charged for fraud after making spirit photography his career. Edouard Isidore Buguet also worked as a spirit photographer in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Though, in my opinion, his photographs are distinctively more awkward. Case in point, the photograph bellow where Buguet used a cutout of his friend Edouard Poiret in his double exposure:
Buguet spent a year in prison for fraud; the evidence against him was significant. Investigators raided his studio finding two dummies (a small one used to represent children), and 299 photographs mounted on cardboard. Here are some other ghostly images that were likely created with double exposures.


Long exposure is another method in making a "ghost". These were especially common in the early days of photography when the average exposure took about half an hour. By having a person briefly stop in the frame, only a hint of their figure will be exposed in the final image.

Now, with modern technology there is the beauty of graphic distortion combined with a long exposure; this creates the perfect lighting along with a sweeping figure who probably walked slowly across a long exposure.

Another unrealistic double exposure.
Then there is Ben Cauchi, a contemporary artist using Victorian era equipment to create images like this:
This is, of course, a personal favorite because it fits into my vacant chair thesis as well as being a tongue in cheek nod to paranormal photography. Cauchi has a whole series of photos that seem like they are taken with the help of a mischievous poltergeist. Finally, here is a fun way to play with ghostly effects...flour. That's it; a fast exposure, flour, and some high contrast lighting. Have fun with it folks.

Image by Blainintheexsjados'


Image by BryonyRachel


Image by jer in the box

1 comment:

BAREFOOT KANGAROO said...

Fascinating read, and as seasonally appropriate as raking leaves and picking apples.