As several scholars have noted, the use of superimposition effects in cinema to conjure such apparitions as ghosts, fairies, devils, and other fantastic creatures finds a significant precedent in spirit photography, a spiritualist practice by which the image of one or more spirits was 'magically' captured on a photographic plate. However, arguing for a relationship of direct filiation between spirit photography and the tricks employed in film remains problematic, especially given that spirit pictures were entangled with matters of religious belief. This article calls for a more solid insertion of spiritualism's visual culture into the pre-history of film practice, giving three main cases in support of the relationship between spirit photography and early cinema. Firstly, the commercial use of spirit photographs within the spiritualist movement suggests that the circulation of these images was not exclusively informed by matters of belief. Secondly, the popularization of exposures of spirit photography operated by numerous stage magicians in the late nineteenth century can contribute towards explaining the insertion of multiple-exposure techniques in the technical expertise of early filmmakers. Thirdly, a documented case in which spirit photographs were presented to a paying public in the vein of magic lantern entertainments demonstrates that the spiritualist visual culture intersected the nineteenth-century tradition of the projected image, too. Thus, by sketching a history of superimposition effects in photography, stage magic, magic lantern, and cinema, this article claims that visual representations of ghosts in the nineteenth century constantly wavered between religion and spectacle, fiction and realism, and still and moving pictures. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.

A short history of superimposition: From spirit photography to early cinema

Natale S.
2012-01-01

Abstract

As several scholars have noted, the use of superimposition effects in cinema to conjure such apparitions as ghosts, fairies, devils, and other fantastic creatures finds a significant precedent in spirit photography, a spiritualist practice by which the image of one or more spirits was 'magically' captured on a photographic plate. However, arguing for a relationship of direct filiation between spirit photography and the tricks employed in film remains problematic, especially given that spirit pictures were entangled with matters of religious belief. This article calls for a more solid insertion of spiritualism's visual culture into the pre-history of film practice, giving three main cases in support of the relationship between spirit photography and early cinema. Firstly, the commercial use of spirit photographs within the spiritualist movement suggests that the circulation of these images was not exclusively informed by matters of belief. Secondly, the popularization of exposures of spirit photography operated by numerous stage magicians in the late nineteenth century can contribute towards explaining the insertion of multiple-exposure techniques in the technical expertise of early filmmakers. Thirdly, a documented case in which spirit photographs were presented to a paying public in the vein of magic lantern entertainments demonstrates that the spiritualist visual culture intersected the nineteenth-century tradition of the projected image, too. Thus, by sketching a history of superimposition effects in photography, stage magic, magic lantern, and cinema, this article claims that visual representations of ghosts in the nineteenth century constantly wavered between religion and spectacle, fiction and realism, and still and moving pictures. © 2012 Taylor & Francis.
2012
10
2
125
145
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17460654.2012.664745
early cinema; magic lantern; nineteenth century; spirit photography; spiritualism; stage magic; trick movie; trick photography
Natale S.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2318/1768934
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