Week 10- Collaging and ‘Spirit Photography’

I want to create a more engaging kind of look and feel to my collection of images and to steer away from the commonly used and popular ways of laying out photographs in a book, as I’ve tested earlier.

I think these tests kind of add to the weird and unsettling aura that the photographs give off. I think I am definitely going to use some variation of sizes for the images as some of them have a lot more dynamic compositions or they have more interesting subject matter in them so I want them to stand out more and be noticed. I want to make the book (or whatever form it takes) A4 so that it is big and really immersive to flick through. Grasps the viewer with its big colours and tones and you will be able to see the decomposing and grain of the scans easier this way.

Martyn Jolly readings :

Talks about Mrs Deane and her physic abilities to see spirits, she photographed them in a series called ‘Mrs Deane’s extras’. There were so many speculations as to if they were real or not, a very high chance that the spirits were created using different papers, newspapers and reflections and projections onto the camera to integrate with the reality the was seen in front of the camera. What seems to be a prominent idea though is that the truth tends to lie in the beholder. If a spirit is ‘captured’ in a photograph then if the client or viewer wants to believe it’s true then they will. It might be because the story behind it is beautiful and would just be more appealing if the spirit was real so that the whole story becomes believable. After unpicking and investigating Mrs Deane’s photographs for a long time F. W Warrick concluded that the resembled spirits in her photographs weren’t even images of the dead, they were ‘mental pictures’ where the memories and thoughts in the brain were captured because they existed in the dimension of the camera also, and these were just mediated by Mrs Deane someone. This explanation doesn’t seem like a legitimate one at all but it makes a better story than if Warrick had concluded that the photographs had just had newspaper prints stuck to the camera lense to create the effect. Another example of story telling to validate spirit photography, “Sir William Crookes built up an ongoing relationship with the spirit Katie King. He reported that she was supremely beautiful, and felt and breathed like a living person, and he was convinced that she had a different height, heart rate and hair colour than the medium who ectoplasmically produced her as she supposedly lay in a supine trance in her cabinet. And we too, at a stretch, can just be convinced how Crookes, flattered by the attentions of this Pre-Raphaelite spiritual beauty in the crepuscular hush of a Victorian parlour, lit by a galvanically powered arc light, could be persuaded to momentarily believe she was supernatural, and then out of pride and scientific arrogance, refuse to recant for the rest of his life.” This story highlights that there are values pulling us in both directions when it comes to spirit photography. On one side we want to believe that artistic and whimsical ideas and appearance of another world that is not our own, it is more exciting for it to be real than for it to not be, but the other side of us is more logical and we can favour this because it’s hard to see past it and because we are used to reasoning and thinking through everything to make sure that we are right.

‘Spirit Photography’ – ‘Photographing the dead’ – Martyn Jolly –https://martynjolly.com/writing/

The authenticity of affect not effect: Few excerpts that I found particularly relevant

“I am interested in the spirit photograph because, on the one hand, in the emotional effect it had on its audience and in the visceral connection with their absent loved ones which it gave them, it seems to confirm all that is most powerful about photography. However, on the other hand, in its structure and its execution and in its use of amateurish ‘special effects’, it seems to erode the very ontological foundations on which that photographic power is built. For me, therefore, the spirit photograph enables an, admittedly eccentric, critique of the normative epistemology of the twentieth-century photograph. On one obvious level these elaborate explanations which the spiritualists came up with to explain the effects were their attempts to maintain belief in the face of what were more easily explainable as signs of fraud (flat looking extras, hard cut-out edges, the presence of half-tone dot screens, different lighting, etc). But in doing so they invented and sustained an extraordinarily compelling, moving, and poetic photographic system.”

Spirit photography can bring some validation and clarity to what people claim to see and feel of the spirits around them. The photograph can conjure great emotion, nostalgia and amazement which is what photography is all about, although the way that they are often captured can sometimes cause all of this authenticity and emotion to be lost because of the carelessness to making the spirit in the photograph believable.

FACES OF THE LIVING DEAD ‘Faces of the Living Dead’, paper, Junk Writing Conference, University College Worcester, UK, 2002,  7 — 9 August. –https://martynjolly.com/2013/10/03/faces-of-the-living-dead-2/

“But many Spiritualist believers simply couldn’t understand how such a ordinary, earnest woman, as Mrs Deane so obviously was, who had brought comfort and joy to thousands of sorrowing hearts, could be periodically attacked by sceptics and accused of cheating her clients with elaborate sleight-of-hand tricks. Mr F. W. Fitzsimons, for instance, found Mrs Deane to be a cheery, pleasant faced old soul, simple and uneducated in the ways and evils of the world of men, and with the hallmark of absolute honesty imprinted on her face. On one of his visits to Mrs Deane, Fitzsimons encountered a sad, care-worn-looking man in the garb of a clergyman. The clergyman was clutching a psychic photograph of his recently deceased wife. “My wife and I had been married twenty years, and we were childless”, he explained, “she was all I lived for. Recently she died, and my religion has given me no comfort or solace. I was in despair, and grew resentful against God. A friend told me about faces of deceased people appearing on photographs. I had four exposures made. Two were blanks, one had the psychic face of someone I did not recognise, and the other held that of my wife, and here it is”. “Can such a thing be true?”, he asked Fitzsimons, tears gathering in his eyes, “To me it seems impossible, yet I succeeded in getting the picture of my wife”. “If such a thing be true, why does not the suffering, anguished world know about it?”, he cried. “Because”, Fitzsimons answered, “people as a whole are steeped in materialism, self-conceit, ignorance, intolerance and bigotry”

“Photographic emulsion — creamy, gelatinous, sensitive to light, bathed in chemicals, and cradled by hands — became poetically and technically related to the most mysterious, potent substance in the spiritualist’s world: ectoplasm. Ectoplasm was rooted in the materiality of the body, it was feminine, moist and labile and often smelt of the bodily fluids it was imagistically related to. Ectoplasm could form itself into shapes (in the nineteenth century it could even embody, or body forth, complete material spirits who would walk around the room), but it could also act as an emulsion — receiving imprints or filling moulds. In spirit photography ectoplasm was not only a physical stage in a process of transubstantiation, but also a technological interface, a bio/techno diaphragm.

To me the recently renewed interest in spirit photography reveals the continued power and enigma of the photographic image, despite predictions in the 1990s of its digital demise. The spirit photograph of the 1920s resonates with the ways the photograph as artefact is still used today in both public and private rituals of memory, mourning and loss.”

‘Haunted Australia’, catalogue essay in Trace Elements: Spirit and Memory in Japanese and Australian Photomedia, 2008, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery and Performance space edited by Bec Dean. English version, pp 52 – 57 of 142 page catalogue, ISBN 978-4-925204-22-4 C 0070 –https://martynjolly.com/2013/10/03/haunted-australia/

This report talks about spirit photography and stories in Australia, Talks about how every country seems to have their own no matter where you ask. They create a bridge between memories and what is now the present. A way of preserving this, not only the ghost itself is preserved but the context of the time of the ghost’s living existence is kept and remembered/ reflected on.

This archive can be comforting to people, can bring them happiness and relief to know that a loved one is still there with them or watching over them. Can also validate their beliefs to others that their loved ones are with them still – even though the images may have been specifically captured or manipulated by another person to make sure that these intentions are met to make these emotions apparent.

“After 60,000 Australian Soldiers died and were buried on the distant battle fields of World War One an extraordinary cult of the dead grew up amongst those that were left to mourn them, but who had no grave to grieve at. This collective grief became focussed on the Anzac memorials being built in each town, and in the annual ritual of the Anzac Day Dawn Service and Commemorative March. Just before Anzac Day 1925 Melbourne Punch described Anzac Day as ‘that solemn day, on which … the spirits of the nation’s gallant dead come back again for a space, on ‘Home Leave’.’[2] Two years later the famous war artist and cartoonist Will Dyson published his best-known cartoon in the Melbourne Herald.In A Voice from Anzac two ghostly Australia soldiers left behind on the beachhead of Gallipoli draw solace from hearing the feet of the Returned Men marching in Australia. One of them says to the other: ‘Funny thing, Bill—I keep thinking I hear men marching!’.”

The archive of ghost photography can also bring terror to people, revealing ghosts of people or paranormal ‘beings’ that they would rather not see. Brings them discomfort to know that something can be captured in an image when they cannot see it in real life. Humans are afraid of the unknown and this isn’t even part of the dimension are in – takes it to a whole other level. In saying this though, some people might enjoy the level of discomfort and unsettling nature to the spirit images, in a way they provide a sort of thrill. Random thought : It’s the same way that people respond to earthquakes- some people find them absolutely horrific to experience, where as others get an immediate sense of thrill from the fact that they have no control over it, it’s a little bit life threatening and snaps them out of their comfort.

“As Gelder says, ghost stories are one way ‘in which white settlement in this country is shown to be, in fact, fundamentally unsettled.’ Ghosts are able to bring into conjunction times and spaces which are conventionally separated. They can reveal what was previously hidden, or dormant, or ignored.”

Feedback from collage tests:

Evidence file idea could be really cool and fitting with my topic like a ‘hunt’ or a ‘search’ so that the viewer can really engage and interact with the book or file type collection like they are going on a ghost hunt.

I could think about removing parts of the stories, blanking them out, highlighting certain aspects of them and covering over parts of them to make them seem more like they are in the process of being uncovered and there is information missing in the search. What is missing and why ?

Collaging kind of style is working well – I think I’m going to play around with different layers of papers and flaps and materials to make it more messy and organic. Think about what is going to be under these flaps. More images? Or just blank?

Cut out corners of the images and put holes in them, could be black, white coloured like the purple and green tones of the ones I’ve been using recently. Everyone really likes the ghostly colours.

Weggee boards and candles? could some how involve this imagery in there. Maybe I could do my own line drawings ad sketches to add to the feeling of the book.

Is there a narrative going through it? or does it just seem like there is but the focus is just on the images? What text am I going to include?

Class activity – title and statement:

We did a little bit of work on creating a kind of abstract summary of 200 words for our work. This was just rough, done over 20ish minutes.

Ghosts and photography seem to have a strong connection. Seeing a ‘real’ ghost or spirit from the paranormal world still remains a mystery to humans but there are many instances where people claim to have seen one and captured it in some way. Although, the photograph itself can essentially be what ‘creates’ the ghost. This may be intentional through the use of double and long exposures, lens flares and dust particles in specific lighting, or the capturer may be oblivious that these techniques have occurred. You never know, they may have actually seen a real one. This archive of Wellington haunted locations and photographs and text excerpts that allude to ‘ghost sightings and hunting’ collectively bring across this feeling of uncertainty in this area of our lives. Humans are both scared and intrigued by the unknown. The recurrent themes of the blue tint over hunting videos and the general exaggerated nature speaks to this fascination people have about a world that is not their own and their goals to make it believable to others.

Possible titles and subtitles (title can be poetic and just get the jist of your work, where the subtitle might bring more clarification and summarise the abstract in a very short sentence. ) :

  • Glimpses
  • Whispers
  • Tangible, Intangible
  • Wellington Paranormal
  • Invisible world
  • Shining a light on the capitals intangible and invisible ghosts and haunted locations
  • Invisible capital
  • Intangible wellington
  • Through the shadows
  • Was that a gh…?
  • Did you just see that?
  • Who you gonna call?

Words to include somehow – locations, haunting, spirit, shadows, invisible, visible, unsettling, eerie, spooky,

https://www.ghostsandgravestones.com/how-to-ghost-hunt how to ghost hunt. Could have some useful info and words to use for my titles and in the evidence file.

Evidence file examples to inspire me:

Some more collage-style layouts:

Omm Photograph Hours –

‘La Criazione’ –

‘A photographic study’ –

-this one is interesting because lots of folds that the viewer can open up – more interactive than usual.

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