New Exhibit Explores the Phenomenon of Paranormal Photography

Spooky photography exhibit
Some of the terrifying pictures from the new exhibit.

With the spooky season in full swing, a new exhibition exploring the origins of paranormal and spiritual photography has been unveiled by Getty Images.

Entitled Ghost in the Machine, the exhibit maps the origins of spirit photography displaying some never-before-released photographs from the Hulton Archive.

The historic images from the 19th and early 20th centuries put a lens on the paranormal, showcasing how early photographers used double exposure and physical manipulation to conjure invisible realms.

The exhibit contains photographs showing a table apparently moving on its own at a seance in Paris. Meanwhile, in another seance, a musical instrument floats in the air.

Seance in Paris
This scene captured in Paris circa 1900 shows a table being lifted off the ground by spirits from beyond. The body language here is one of skepticism—a frequent charge leveled against practitioners. Scientists, journalists, and other non-believers were often invited to attend seances, and while many mediums were proven to be frauds, there were a handful that convinced witnesses they were indeed capable of communing with the dead. | Getty Images
Spirit photography
This photo, titled “Where’s the Rent,” was created in the London Stereoscopic Company’s studio. The glass plate negative is from the LSC Comic Series and was one of nearly a dozen variations created with the same three characters and set. From a technical standpoint, this photo is masterful. Modern digital technology allows images such as this to be created in minutes, but in 1865 the photographer’s ability to control the lighting and multiple exposures required to create a convincing view such as this was exceptional. | London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images
Spectral figure over baby
The specter of a young woman floats over a sleeping child in this scene from 1860. The image, equal parts haunting and innocent, was produced by the London Stereoscopic Company, the world’s first commercial photo agency. LSC, as it is known, produced photographs across a variety of themes and subjects for the purpose of editorial licensing. The fact that LSC was producing a series on Spiritualism (notice the ’16’ in the lower right corner) proves widespread public interest in the subject | Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.
A strange substance, identified as ectoplasm, emerges from the mouth of medium Marthe Beraud (aka Eva C) during a seance, circa 1910. Picture taken from ‘Les Phenomenes dits de Materialisation’ by Juliette Bisson. | Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

One of the spirit images plays on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a ghost appears at the stroke of midnight wrapped in chains in front of a terrified man.

“For as long as technologies have existed, we’ve projected magical properties onto them,” writes the press release from Getty.

“In the 19th century, creative pioneers used spirit photography as a medium for communicating with invisible realms. Art allows us to give form to new realities. Now, as we approach Halloween, the otherworldly is all around us. Ghost in the Machine, the first physical‑digital project from Candy Digital and Getty Images, traces the impact of early paranormal photography on culture today.”

Stereoscopic picture
At the stroke of midnight, a man is terrified by the ghostly apparition of a man in chains. Stereoscopic double exposure, circa 1875. These photographs were produced by a single camera with two lenses placed roughly the same distance apart as the human eye. The glass plates were printed on heavy card stock with elegant embellishments and branding. The cards were placed in a wooden holder that looked strikingly similar to modern VR goggles. The holder, which had a divider, caused viewers to look at each image on the card separately and simultaneously. The human brain, which naturally combines separate views into a single image, ‘sees’ a 3D image. | Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
A musical instrument rises in the air at a seance, circa 1920. | Photo by Mills/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Modern photographers also contributed to the exhibition: Jacob Haupt, Robert Hickerson, Rachel Stern, and Elyse Fulcher all produced horror movie-inspired images for a part of the exhibit named Nightmare Logic.

Modern spooky photos
The exhibition also contains images from modern photographer exploring spooky concepts. | Jacob Haupt
Modern spooky photos
Robert Hickerson.
Modern spooky photos
Jacob Haupt.
Modern spooky photos
Robert Hickerson.

Getty is holding the exhibition along with Candy Digital, the two entities are “exploring the power of blockchain technology” together. The artworks are for sale in digital-only form for $75 and can be bought as a framed print for $225. For more information, head to Candy’s website.

Update 10/30: A couple of photographers names were added who are involved with the exhibit.