Happy Halloween, 2021! Photographers, Photographs, and Tricks!

Ceramic pumpkins at Kroger, 2021; photo by E. Lee Eltzroth

This Halloween I am giving you a mish-mash of items that might help you get into that Halloween spirit and give you some ideas!

Here is a nice piece by Kim Beil called “Snap Judgement” which appeared last May in Lapham’s Quarterly on Trick Photography. Remember that “Sometimes errors were useful teachers: strange results became the foundation of popular trick photos.”

Speaking of Trick Photography, here is a link to an 1897 book, Magic; Stage Illusions and Scientific Diversions, Including Trick Photography, by Albert A. Hopkins. Book V is titled “Photograpic Diversions,” and chapter one is Trick Photography, chapter two is Chronophotography, and chapter three is The Projection of Moving Pictures.

Spirit Photography may have been developed by a woman, or so thinks the author of “Spirit photography: 19th-century innovation in bereavement rituals was likely invented by a woman” . Photo historians, though, do not all agree with the author’s stated opinion that Mrs. Stuart was the first woman photographer listed in Boston directories. And here is the linked thesis, The Role of Women in Victorian-era Spirit Photography: A New Narrative, by Felicity Tsering Chödron Hamer, upon which the article was based.

My favorite movie monsters were Lon Chaney, both Senior, and Junior. Here is an illustrated biography that appeared in JSTOR Daily, on Lon, Sr. – Lon Chaney’s Movie Monsters. “Chaney was so committed to making monsters that he often suffered for them, disappearing under painful prosthetics he created himself. He was so effective at crafting these grotesque looks that few knew who he actually was.”

Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Public Domain, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

A friend sent me a fun little piece called “Mummy Photography” that he found in the May 20, 1889 (Vineland, N.J.) Evening Journal — A Paris photographer has introduced a novel style of taking photographs, which he calls “mummy photography.” The subject is swathed in mummy cerements, put into a genuine sarcophagus imported from Cairo, and pictured in an upright position. A smiling, living face looking out from embroidered grave clothes gives an odd effect. No actresses’ salon is complete without a conterfeit presentation of her own mummy.

The author, 1957, Frankfurt, Germany, photo by R. T. Eltzroth; my clown suit made by my mom.

How about “18 Haunting Pictures That Aren’t What They Seem?” How did photographers show magician’s illusions, prove trickery, expose the tricks of mediums? Some wonderful photographs are found here that make us think about what it is we are actually seeing. You will find a very good interview here with the author Matthew L. Tompkins, a former magician, talking about his book, The Spectacle of Illusion.

And to bring this to a close, here’s something related, The Intriguing History of Ghost Photography, from the BBC in 2015. Starting with photos made with a smartphone, they take you back in history. You’ll see a few familiar names, but many unfamiliar names, and some wonderful photographs!

I hope you found some Halloween fun here, and got some good ideas, or at least a better idea of how photography has tricked us all, and will continue to, so be aware…….!

© E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, including photographs, without written permission from this blog’s author, is prohibited. With permission, excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to E. Lee Eltzroth and Hunting & Gathering, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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