Join Dr Emily Eastgate Brink, Assistant Professor at the University of Western Australia and specialist in eighteenth and nineteenth-century art for a fascinating lecture about spirit photography in Victorian times.
In the 1860s William Mumler first photographed a ghost. An early pioneer of the innovative double-exposure technique, Mumler claimed to have captured both a living portrait and an image of the dead in one photograph. This claim would initiate a wave of ‘spirit photography’ in America and Europe during the later nineteenth century, a photographic genre devoted to documenting the ghosts we live with. Promoted as a chemical capture of life, the nineteenth-century photograph became an empirical document, an accurate representation, and a medium closely associated with truth.
In many respects, the eye of the camera was believed to capture what the human eye could not see. What are the stakes of documenting the invisible and how did spirit photographs alter the understanding of the self in the later nineteenth century? This talk will explore the ghost photograph as a double portrait and a convenient fiction, while also questioning its role as a document of the living and the dead.