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Jamie Campbell –Looking Askance

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In the spring of 1861, William H. Mumler, a distinguished jeweler’s engraver turned photographer captured the first Spirit Photograph. This was not necessarily the first photograph of its kind, but the first recorded in history with claims of visually reproducing the dead in the form of a faint, yet recognizable ghost like figure. With a rapidly growing Spiritualist movement, which believed that the spirits of the dead had the ability and inclination to communicate meaningfully with the living, Mumler’s wet-plate negatives were praised as revelations and evidence from the spiritual world. Although ridiculed as a hoax by many non-believers and eight years after creating his very first Spirit Photograph was tried in the court of law as a fraudulent, Mumler stood by his assertion that the ghost-like spirits appearing in his photographs were of no influence or manipulation of his own. Although the jury could not find him guilty, in my personal account of photographic history, William H. Mumler single handedly created skepticism and doubt around the very medium praised for its authenticity and objective truth-telling.

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