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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Truth Behind Victorian Era’s Spirit Photography

spirit photography, spirit, ghost

It's a common knowledge that Victorian people had a strange fascination with death. In fact, their fascination was so strong that they believed they could communicate with the departed. Some mediums took advantage of this strange fad by taking people's money and offering them a false sense of comfort through seances. On the other hand, others tried to prove their so-called "abilities" through the practice of spirit photography.

Spirit photography in its simplest form began to gain attention in Europe during the 1850s.

spirit photography, spirit, ghost

Spirit photographers used light tricks and film manipulation during the development process in order to make the photos look convincing. While the more skilled photographers inserted realistic faces of people's departed loved ones into the images.
Spirit photography didn't reach America until the end of the Civil War in 1865. It was pretty much exclusive in Europe before the post-war era. The grief-stricken Americans seek comfort in buying these photographs, although it's likely that they already knew the photos were fake.

As the next century rolled in, Europe and America faced the conflicts of World War I. This resulted in more entrepreneurial opportunities for the spirit photographers.

spirit photography, spirit, ghost

The popularity of spirit photography challenged its photographers to frequently change their techniques to avoid being exposed as frauds.

It was already obvious to many people that the realistic faces in the photographs were bogus.


That's when spirit photographers started using the 'ghost stamp' technique. With this technique, the photographers were able to manipulate the photos to look more authentic. And yes, people still bought it.

By the end of the 1920s, spirit photographers were already inferred as nothing but photo manipulators. When the Great Depression took place, the art of spirit photography became history.

Written by Kent McGrath, Lucis Philippines contributor.

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