Jaime Lee Moyer: Midnight Secrets and Lies
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More than a hundred years before Photoshop, spirit photography made it’s first appearance.

The Victorians weren’t above taking advantage of people’s naivety and grief. A whole industry grew up around the 19th century and early 20th century spiritualism movement. People wanted proof that the spirits of their loved ones lingered, watching over them. Spirit photographers gave them that proof.

These photographers were frauds, charlatans who knew the tricks of double exposure and layering images from multiple negatives. That didn’t matter to the people who came to have their photos taken. Those people believed the cloudy apparition hovering behind them was the ghost of someone they’d lost.

Some photographers were true artists, rendering images that were beautiful even if they were lies. Others are obvious fakes to the modern eye, but people today weren’t the target audience. We are all too grounded in the real world, too educated in the ways of technology and science to believe.

The point is that people living in the 1800s and early 1900s did believe in ghosts, and spirits lingering long after death. Spirituals and mediums were seen as a means to communicate with the dead, special people with special gifts, and seances were very common.

And if that strong belief in ghosts and haunts ever began to waiver, the evidence–their cherished photographs–was right before their eyes.



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