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Incidents (excerpt), by Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky

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[Three Spirits with Photograph on Table]

William Mumler (American, 1832–1884)

Date:
1862-75
Medium:
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Dimensions:
Image: 9.5 x 5.7 cm (3 3/4 x 2 1/4 in.) Frame: 36.2 x 48.9 cm (14 1/4 x 19 1/4 in.) (Framed with FI.13.7, .8, .10, .11, .12)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Description

    In the early 1860s Mumler became the first producer and marketer of “spirit photographs,” portraits in which hazy figures, presumed to be the spirits of the deceased, loom behind or alongside living sitters. He quickly garnered the support of the burgeoning Spiritualist movement, which held that the human spirit exists beyond the body and that the dead can—and do—communicate with the living. Mumler first discovered his calling while working as a jewelry engraver in Boston, but his career there was cut short when a ghost that had appeared in two of his photographs was discovered to be a local resident who was still very much alive. In 1868 he opened a studio in New York City but was arrested the following year on charges of fraud and larceny.

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