Dark Materials: The Chemical Wedding of Photography and the Occult' in 'Esotericicsm, Art, and Imagination'

J. Weinstein, E. G. Wilson, L. Gharavi, M. E. Warlick, G. Constantini, A. Versluis, M. K. Schichard, G. M. Young, C. Fanger, J. Godwin, G. A. Magee, V. Nelson, C. P. Webster, C. Gutierrez, P. Granziera, S. W. Whedon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The connection between the camera obscura space and the uncanny has been prevalent since the inception of the medium. The earliest experiments used terminology such as miraculous, marvellous and magical. The transmutational state where light, the fleeting trace of life, could be codified into image-icon still has echoes of the marvellous even in the twenty-first century. Kircher’s projections of devils with his magic lantern equipment, Fausten’s manifestations, and ‘spirits’ walking in the air in public demonstrations of the camera obscura – all form part of a history of associations through to the photographic period with its ghosts, soul stealing and evidential structures. The photographic space is still accredited with the ability to ‘see’ where the human eye cannot and photographic related technologies that ‘see’ wavelengths of light invisible to the human eye serve to confirm the notion that it is still feasible in the dark chamber of the camera obscura to capture a ghost through the lens. Here the physical universe is transmutated like lead into gold to become a re-enchanted and numinous space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEsotericism, Art, and Imagination
EditorsArthur Versluis, Lee Irwin, John Richards, Melinda Weinstein
Place of PublicationEast Lansing, Michigan
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780870138195, 0870138197
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2008


  • photography
  • occult
  • alchemy


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  • Spirit, Ghost and Psychic Photography

    Webster, C., 2008, Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography. Hannavy, J. (ed.). 1st ed. New York: Taylor & Francis, Vol. 2. p. 1331-1334 4 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

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