In “The Apparitionists,” Peter Manseau takes us on an expedition through the beginnings of photography and its deceptions. No sooner had people invented a way of creating photographic images (whether it was a daguerreotype, an ambrotype or a hallotype) than people found ways of altering the images — and, even more relevantly, of lying about their contents and how they were obtained. A photograph, as we well know, can’t talk back. It’s like a piece of taxidermy. It can’t say to us, “No, I’m not a picture of Abraham Lincoln.” And often the provenance of a photograph, its causal connection to the world, is hidden. All we’re left with is an image that, for all intents and purposes, could have been given to us by aliens. This is where Manseau comes in. In a world overcome with death and the horrible losses of the Civil War, people turned to photography hoping to be united with deceased loved ones in perpetuity. It’s that strange combination of desire, hope and the presence of an image that seems almost alive that makes us think we’re in contact with a timeless realm that transcends death.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
… The Man Who Photographed Ghosts. (Hat tip, Rus Bowden.)