Homework #3: Documenting Spiritualism

Shannon Taggart, Reverend Jean heals Jennifer, Lily Dale, NY

Shannon Taggart, Reverend Jean heals Jennifer, Lily Dale, NY

In the spirit of Halloween, this homework is on spirit photography. We briefly touched on the beginnings of spirit photography in class with William Mumler’s photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. The contemporary photographer Shannon Taggart has photographed Lily Dale, the world’s largest Spiritualist community in western New York. Taggart gave a talk here at CityTech last year on her work. Her photographic projects often focus on alternative types of religious experience. Taggart’s photographic work includes a project on the Haitian practice of Vodou right here in Brooklyn.

We have discussed the difficulty of producing religious imagery via photography (for example, look at F. Holland Day). For this post, I would like you to read an article of Taggart’s work in Slate and consider the difficulties of documenting spiritualism or any religious experience. Do you think such documentation possible? valuable? intrusive?

Click here for the article on Shannon Taggart’s photography “The World’s Hub for Spiritualism in a Tiny New York Town.”

You can explore her photography on her personal website shannontaggart.com here.

To complete this homework assignment, note whether you Post or Comment. For Homework #3, Hearts and Clubs  will submit a Post and Diamonds and Spades will Comment (choose any of your classmates’ posts to comment on).

Homework #3 is DUE by Thursday October 29th.‹  Clubs and Hearts Post, Diamonds and Spades Comment. Please note your blog group! Email me if you forget.

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24 Responses to Homework #3: Documenting Spiritualism

  1. Personally, I believe in the spiritual world, so for someone who believes in this topic, Shannon Taggart’s photos seem like a documentary that wouldn’t be difficult to spread to the audience who is ‘interested’. The difficulty, however, arises when there are those who are religious or don’t believe in these spiritual practices of sorts. When it comes to that particular audience, these images do become “intrusive”; my mother, for example, does not condone any objects, toys (ouija boards), or practices that can connect or disrupt a spirit from passing on, because she believes that it is disrespectful and dangerous, therefore she does not look at photos of spiritual communications i action, or photos of deceased in their present state. So although I may find it interesting, there are viewers who find it unnecessary, or some who find it to be a hoax. As seen in earlier spiritual photography, photos were manipulated to make it look like the living was in a presence of a spirit. There was also photography of mediums and ectoplasm that began in the 1920s, but some were proven to be hoaxes; not saying that they are, but why can’t Taggert’s not be accurate? Putting this aside, I believe that photography like isn’t just spooky and interesting, but this can be used for scientific research of some sort, any who, you won’t see me enthralled in the taking of spiritual photography, I’ll just be a viewer.

    • Drilon Dushi says:

      This topic of specialism is such a touchy topic, because there are no proven facts. Just like the ideas if aliens do exist. We believe in them but don’t have a hard-hitting facts. Spiritualism is something practiced in certain religions and for those who practicet then it means a lot to them. They have been TAUGHT to believe. I believe anything is possible in this world we live in but we have made it so hard to believe because we have ruined it’s image by portraying it as scary and fake in horror movies. We are brainwashed to believe in these practices and honestly it’s all in your head.

      • Drilon Dushi says:

        Also to add, spiritualist photography has always been fake starting with William Mumler’s photograph of Mary Todd Lincoln with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Throughout history we have always faked photographs to gain attention and hype certain ideas. Some include Big foot and the Loch Ness monster . Is it real or fake.

  2. Personally, I believe in the spiritual world, so for someone who believes in this topic, Shannon Taggart’s photos seem like a documentary that wouldn’t be difficult to spread to the audience who is ‘interested’. The difficulty, however, arises when there are those who are religious or don’t believe in these spiritual practices of sorts. When it comes to that particular audience, these images do become “intrusive”; my mother, for example, does not condone any objects, toys (ouija boards), or practices that can connect or disrupt a spirit from passing on, because she believes that it is disrespectful and dangerous, therefore she does not look at photos of spiritual communications i action, or photos of deceased in their present state. So although I may find it interesting, there are viewers who find it unnecessary, or some who find it to be a hoax. As seen in earlier spiritual photography, photos were manipulated to make it look like the living was in a presence of a spirit. There was also photography of mediums and ectoplasm that began in the 1920s, but some were proven to be hoaxes; not saying that they are, but why can’t Taggert’s not be accurate? Putting this aside, I believe that photography like this isn’t just spooky and interesting, but this can be used for scientific research of some sort. Any who, you won’t see me enthralled in the taking of spiritual photography, I’ll just be a viewer.

    • Kevin Michalkiewicz says:

      I surly agree with you. Someone who is interested and believes in the spiritual world will definitely be interested in this. I also believe that problems will arise to people who are very religious and to people who don’t believe in the spiritual world. Ultimately this type of photography could be useful to a certain point since there is a chance that it may not be appealing to all of the audience.

  3. Soledad says:

    The difficulties is Taggart’s work in Slate of documenting spiritualism is whether is real or non-real. For those who believe in spiritualism they usually tend to believe in this photographs. Taggart’s encountered various experiences in her life that dealt with spiritualism. I think her pictures seem to be conventionally. I believe that spiritualism is impossible to capture since one can interpret these images according to ones beliefs. It’s something one can’t prove and Taggart’s photography lets you interpret her photography in whichever way you want to interpret it. The reason to this is because in Taggart’s photography there is distortions. Taggart’s work can be considered intrusive for the audience especially for those who don’t believe in spirits and for those who are very religious as well. I would say that it would be valuable for those who believe in spiritualism.

    • Felipe Leger says:

      Yes that is true her work seems to be foreword to people that believe on spiritualism. Its true she tried to capture spirits on film that is why all her pictures where distorted because of moving the camera too much or snapping the pictures fast to see any spirits. The thing is she probably was not a believe at the begging but it might had change over time since she became a student for a short period.

  4. Felipe Leger says:

    This article is very interesting this is because I find things like the supernatural very interesting. I also believe that this article is more supernatural then religious because it talks about speaking to basically ghost, which in my book that is supernatural. That group she did a study on is most likely a cult then a religion. Even though I like the supernatural I believe that the documentation is impossible because she does not have evidence, and all she has are distorted pictures. Oh, and the picture of the man grown hand does not count as evidence because they could have tricked her just like magician tent to do. I do though believe that her studies are valuable because it tells what some people believe and what they believe on. She is basically digging for the truth, which in my book anytime anyone does that it would seem valuable to me. Then we have if she was intrusive and I believe if they gave her permission then she was not intrusive because they want other people to believe what they do. In another case if she forced her way in or sneaked her way in that would be very intrusive. Either way this article was a good read because it felt like reading a story about a journalist going to study the supernatural but instead of going all wrong it when normal. Son in the end she did a great job explaining what this cult basically did and what they believe in.

  5. Bibi Ali says:

    To be honest, documenting spiritualism is pretty hard since sometimes you can never tell a real picture from a fake one. In today’s society, many special effects can be added to make it look like an authentic photograph. I don’t think taking a picture can show as much just because we don’t know if it was staged or if it was manipulated in anyway. But there are many that believe in it, and it can be possible. Even if it was recorded it could be hard to tell if it’s real or not because sometimes it video or even the picture isn’t as clear as we need it to be. It can be valuable to some more than others, especially the ones that have seen some things for themselves. But I think we should leave that side to who ever want to explore it. I don’t think people would want to get themselves into that kind of thing; the things that cant be neither explained nor controlled. And yes I find it a bit intrusive because our daily lives run on business and fact not fiction and the supernatural, I think that for the most part it is uncalled for but if your willing to look into it for your own leisure then all is welcome.

    • I agree with your comments. It is difficult to believe some of the proof people claim to have about the after life and encountering ghosts. Personally I do not believe in ghosts. I have not ever encountered any or have known anyone who has. I think its peoples eagerness to believe that there is something more out there than themselves as well as confusion about what happens after we die because the only ones who do know for sure are dead.

  6. Arlyn Aquino says:

    In my opinion I believe in the spiritual world, Taggart’s photographs are able to document the spiritual world from her point of view. Since she has experienced various events that have dealt with spiritualism her photos seem to portray her beliefs. It would seem that many people would consider Taggart’s photographs either real or fake. If you were even able to document spiritualism or any religious experience it would be difficult because of the fact that many people could believe that the photograph was manipulated or staged. Some other difficulties of documenting spiritualism are the fact that many people don’t believe in the spiritual world. I do believe that such documentation is possible and it could be considered valuable because these photos would be able to help the scientific research and could be considered valuable to those who believe in spiritualism. Some people might believe that it would be intrusive to those who don’t believe in spiritualism because they believe that they are intruding with spirits that don’t want to be bothered. Many people would not believe in documenting spiritualism because many photographs have been known to be manipulated in the past. But in my opinion I believe that you can be able to document spiritualism.

    • Yeah I agree with you, I think whether documenting it is possible or not has to do with perception, some people will believe that they see spirits in the photos while someone else might think it is just a mistake or even fake. And yes I think it can be valuable to people who see spirits of loved ones in the photos because it can evoke emotions such as closure or happiness. I’m not sure about it being intrusive because a lot of the spirits caught in photos are mostly accidents and there was no way to avoid it.

  7. Hyunjaekim says:

    On a personal point of view I always thought spiritual photography was fascinating. the reason why it is fascinating, because of that idea of connecting within the spiritual world just like alien life from in space. however with today’s technology it is far too easy to fake the photos even if they claim to be true. It is unfortunates that the idea of spiritual photography is among the people consider as a fake or just a silly prank. Hope that some day there will be actual proof that spiritual photography is actually worth putting an interests in.

    • Derick says:

      i find spiritual stories more interesting than spiritual photos because when i hear a story i can use my imagination more to think about it. when i see spiritual photos i just think of them being fake and modified for people to believe it is real. its hard for me to see a picture and believe what i am seeing.

    • Jose N says:

      Hyunjaekin I agree with you. Even if the photo are really the photographic can learn how to take a photo that when it comes out it looks like a ghost or something super natural.

  8. Nomun Rahman says:

    i still cannot access open lab due to city tech email problems, however i believe that spiritual photography in my honest opinion is absurd. the reason of that is because i don’t believe in spirits and there are none so i honestly think is a waste of time.

  9. Ryan Wong says:

    This article is very interesting to me because I am a strong believer in supernatural topics. Documenting spiritualism is hard because in today’s technologies you can easily manipulate photos to look like a genuine photo. Many photos aren’t the authentic raw images, rather than showing the actual picture the photographer or artist can process it to create what they want you to see. This would be the case for spiritual photography. However if the photos were processed or not believers of spirits will definitely relate to these photos. Whether it be experience or stories we will believe in these photos because we know that these things exist. I can definitely relate to Shannon Taggart’s photos, her images has successfully captured me as an audience and I am sure they will continue to capture other people who believe in the supernatural.

  10. Diteyn Elmsoxogu says:

    I really liked this article! It’s probably because I’ve always been a Halloween nut, but I like the fact that Taggart actually went into the art of Spiritualistic Photography. So many people these days are quick to dismiss something just because they can’t wrap their heads around it. Many people seldom take the time to actually explore what a certain craft has to offer. If you don’t like it after some exploration, that’s fine. In terms of spirits; I’ve always been more towards the side of non believers, but I still can understand and respect the reason why spiritualistic photography is even a thing. Mostly because of my mom. She’s a BIG believer of these kinds of things and acutally practices some Nigerian rituals in my house on New Years! Also people who practice these types of photos make the world alot more interesting than it already is by not sticking to the concrete but going into the abstract.

    • Jamile Brito says:

      I totally agree with you. I actually think that the fact that Taggart got involved with Spiritualistic Photography makes it more interesting. Nowadays, people are too scared to do something out of the ordinary just because they are many individuals that wouldn’t stand by it or believe in it. Also, the fact that i have always liked Halloween makes me like this as well . I’m intrigued by this because i consider it something new, unique and mysterious. But at the same time i don’t believe in Spiritualistic Photography. I just think it’s a good way to catch someone’s attention, especially someone that is into these types of things, whether they believe in it or not.

  11. Jan Santos says:

    Honestly I believe that there is such thing as spirits. Although to document spiritualism is a very difficult thing to do. It’s hard to compare what is real and what isn’t. An example is the enlarge hands, that was claimed to be getting bigger. It can be fake because of the lighting or the perspective view of how his hand is that made it seem larger than it is. Especially since it’s just distorted photos she has taken. It’s also difficult to capture one’s attention between religion and disbelief. My religious friend is very frightened of spirits. He would tell me about how spirits are real, how the soul of one dead person can still be walking beside us. He would never try to do anything impulsive, to intrude someone’s spirit while crossing the border between worlds. If I had told him about this documentary of spiritualism, he would freak out. A few of Taggart’s photos has made her believe in what she saw. If the photographer can believe what she or he has taken a photo of, maybe the readers will believe in them too. In a world filled with mysteries and supernatural stuff, anything can happen, even in a flash.

    • Xiomara says:

      I agree with you Jan. I also believe in the spiritual world, and I agree that it’s difficult to document spiritualism. Seeing an image that is trying to point out spiritualism, we can’t really consider if it real or stage as you stated with the enlarge hands. As you mentioned about your friend, my grandmother would also freak out if she sees these images since she’s really religious as well. But at the end of the day, we all have different perspectives on documenting spiritualism.

  12. Daniel says:

    I do think that such documentation is possible and that the images Shannon Taggart are real since I believe in the spiritual word, so this article to me was just more proof that the spiritual world does exist. The images that were shown throughout the article all look real and authentic and not photoshopped. Documenting spiritualism comes with a lot of difficulties such as getting people to believe that the images are real. If you are already a believer in the spiritual world then you can be easily convinced. To a non-believer it can be more difficult, they will always have concerns unless they physically come across a spiritual being. Another difficulty that occurs when documenting spiritualism is capturing a photo at the correct time. To me personally it would seem very difficult to snap a photo of a ghost and also very risky, we do not know if they are friendly or not anything can happen.

  13. Cynthia Cheek says:

    Sometimes things just happen that no one can explain. Taggart’s first spiritual experience changed the rest of her life. Taggart was intrigued by capturing spirits in her photos. Although some may be skeptical that her photos may be fake. I truly believe some people have more connections with spirits than others. Everyone has had an experience with a spirit. I believe that if you go out searching for spirits, you won’t find them. I believe things just happen when they are supposed to as a sign. For example the picture of the orb on the lady’s shoulder. She just said, ‘Oh that’s Bob!’. I don’t think that if Taggart tried to intentionally find bob she would have. It just happened.

  14. Nicole Romero says:

    Some may believe Taggarts images are fake, but she was ultimately intrigued by the spirits in her photos. i believe spirits are connected with people whom have a natural instinct for it. In other words, spirits are a sign for a person. Taggarts experience has changed the rest of her life and since i do believe in spirits, i am more easily drawn to her photos. I believe in such things so it is much easier to convince me then to a non-believer.

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