Photographer Shannon Taggart Takes Viewers Inside The World

The world seance conjures images of darkened rooms, enthralled mediums, bizarre events and ghost voices. For many modern-day viewers the images may appear like something from an earlier time or even the result of a film rather than an actual belief system.

In the past two decades, American photographer Shannon Taggart has been exploring modern spiritualism, an ancient religion that believes in communicating through the spirits of the dead.

Her photography sequence Seance, which was recently display in the Albin O. Kuhn Gallery at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County is a glimpse into the often misunderstood faith.

As an art curator and historian who has study images of apparitions and the science of conspiracy theory I was drawn to the images of Taggart because they provide a lens through which to study the role of spirituality in contemporary life.

In a time of an outbreak of global pandemics, intensified political divisions, and the global danger of climate change I’m wondering if spirituality could be likely to see a significant revival?

Spiritualism Comes Knocking World

Spiritualism first emerged in Rochester, New York, in 1848. Two twins, Kate and Margaret Fox reported hearing an unsettling rapping sound coming from the wall of their bedroom. The girls claimed that they were communicating via a series of knocks that resembled ghosts of someone who passed away in the house a few some time earlier. The story spread fast, and the girls seen in front of crowds of people to show their abilities.

Then, reports of similar events taking place across the United States appeared in the media and speculation of communicating with deceased people was the subject of popular speculation.

Spiritualism began to develop in the private. The people who communicated with spirits, also known as mediums, operated from their homes. There, they were able to organize seance circles where small groups attempted to communicate with spirits.

As time passed, spiritualists began showing up at conventions and at outdoor summer camp events. In the 1870s, they were beginning to settle down in communities with similar beliefs as well as centers for study like the spiritualist community of Lily Dale, New York which was establish in 1879.

Spiritualists Perform World

Alongside having seances, spiritualists perform healing they believe in the power of prophecy. Mediums claim they transmit information from dead people to those who live, as well as information about the future.

Many spiritualists sought to make fantasies of the future come to life today by promoting the cause of progressive politics, such as the fight against abolitionism, women’s rights, as well as Indigenous rights.

Spiritualism, for instance, has given women a unique part in religion, allowing an audience as well as a platform to communicate messages that were as personal as well as political. Suffragettes Marion H. Skidmore, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony all made speeches about Lily Dale. The spiritualists’ beliefs were a radical departure from the traditional political and religious authority.

Ghosts Inside The Machine

It was the Fox sisters allege capability to communicate with dead people was later refer to in the form of the spiritual telegraph, which was a reference to the then-new invention of Samuel B. Morse. When spiritualism became popular, believers were drawn to technology as tools for communicating with spirit and to demonstrate spirit existence.

Photography evolved into the perfect medium with the ability to make icons of the spiritual. Through the use of astronomical, microscopic, or X-ray imaging, cameras could make invisible things visible. Despite the emergence of altered photos during the 19th century, the status of the photograph as a genuine depiction of reality was remain and, as one could argue it remains in large part.

Photography also played an important part during the 18th century’s commemoration culture because. The camera could stop time and make absent loved ones present, even if it was only a visual mark.

American Civil War World

The American Civil War brought death at a staggering rate into people’s homes by way of illustrated newspapers. Black clothes, mourning jewelry , and the art of post-mortem photography were common in a society of mourning.

In the 1850s, New York portrait photographer William Mumler and his wife, Hannah Mumler, a medium. Host portrait sessions where the spirit of the participants dear love ones manifest in the photographs that taken.

Mumler’s stunning portraits also raised the possibility of Hucksterism. Mumler was accuse of fraud by the claimants who claim that he fabricated the photos and only the showman P.T. Barnum was a witness for the prosecution.

In the twentieth century Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle famously rallied to defend. British medium Ada Emma Deane, who was also accuse of fabricating ghost photographs

The dual-sided coin of faith and doubt is a constant theme in these historical instances. But the psychological effect of these images in those grieving was still powerful.

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