Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vintage Spirit Photography

spirit photo
Spirit photography was all the rage in the late 1860's. The Spritualist movement was a new and powerful force for people who were terrified and unsettled by their times. It wasn't just in America, where the national heartache following the Civil War over the unheard of loss of life, where Spritualism took root. It became a very real presence in England, where it remains an active religion today. Here in the US, American Spritualism is also a current religion, although much smaller in force and often considered a "fringe" religion by the mainstream.

The American Museum of Photography has a wonderful collection of smumler spirit photopirit photography of the era, Do You Believe?, The preeminent spirit photographer of the day was William Mumler.

He understood how to combine the mysteries of technology with mysteries of the sprit, and his photographs are the result. The wonderful old home entertainment stereoscope even had it's fair share of 3D spirit photos.

Today, we look at them and see the intentional double exposure, the rough manipulations and shake our heads at anyone who could have been duped by these crude photos.
We have difficulty understanding how learned men such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed they were real enough to write a book supporting the phenomena as recent as 1923. Of course, he was also taken in by the Cottingley Fairies, so maybe it's not so surprising!
I invite you to take a break from today's reality and wander through this wonderful gallery, set your 21st century logic aside and enjoy these photos for what they were. They remain a curosity of a distant time.

Doyle Book on Spirit PhotographyIf you get as captured by them as I have, you'll be pleased to know there are many, many examples of old spirit photography on the web. There is a nice private collection of photos at Flickr. Also at Flickr is a Vintage Spirit Photography group with a nice collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has an interesting small exhibit. Beyond the Grave, is an exhaustive exhibit on Mumler, spirit photography and an introduction to Spiritualism of the era. An excellent bibliography of Spirit Photography has been put together at this collector's site,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Halloween

I loved Halloween as a child. We lived in a typical sixties new suburban development with hundreds of school age kids. My sisters and I would join forces with friends to form small bands of gypsies, pirates and clowns and we'd hit as any homes as it took to fill our huge Halloween treat bags. They were as big as the shopping bags department stores use now. And fill them we did, sometimes until the bottoms dropped out!

We'd come dragging home, bodies tired but totally jazzed on all the candy we'd eaten en was still safe then to eat unknown candy in the dark! Once home, we'd spill the candy out infront us like it was gold. Then back into the bag to be fiercely guarded by the head of my bed until morning. I think my mother raided our bags in the night and certianly once we were in school the next day! My favorites were Sugar Babies and candy cigarettes.

Last year was the first year that no witches, spooky ghosts or fairies came to my door. I missed them. There was nothing to do but console my self with a bag of Junior Mints. Tell me about your Halloween memories. Hope you enjoy this little treat I made for you.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Beautiful Fall Wedding

Today we went to a lovely wedding. I work with the bride and both she and her husband are warm, giving people. I was happy to be invited! Look at that gorgeous dress! My camera was acting weird and running low on power, so I didn't get any really crisp pictures to do this justice. Everything you see as white scrolls, was really heavily encrusted beading. The hem and bodice were beaded the same. They were a perfect fairy tale couple. His tie was a pretty sky blue.

This bride is one creative gal, on a very low budget she and friends transformed a church basement into a lovely fall fantasy. Dimmed lighting made photos difficult, but created such wonderful ambience.

It's been 8 years since we were at a wedding. Some things have changed. Like guests showing up in jeans. Bridesmaids in flip flop type sandals, mini brides ( a tradition in this area I think, but new to me), big red N's on the cake to show support for a football team.

But the important things, nothing changes them. A public commitment, the groom beaming at his bride, the bride seeing all things good - love, hope, joy when she looks at the groom. Warm memories of other weddings in the pews, as you watch older couples touching hands, shoulders. Nope, nothing's changed about that.
Get out your wedding pictures. Stop living in today for just a moment and really remember the day of your own fairytale.
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Friday, October 03, 2008

Nostalgia Smilin Through

One of the dim,sweet memories I have of childhood is of a distinctive song Mom use to sing as a lullabye. I was reminded of it tonight when I happened across an image of the sheet music on an vintage image group at Flickr. It's so sentimentally sad, I wonder now why it was her song of choice for sending us to sleep. Maybe it was the blues eyes, how she coped with missing Dad's. Maybe it's what fostered a deep melancholy that has been with me always. Maybe I'm just up too late and need to go to bed.


There's a little brown road windin' over the hill
To a little white cot by the sea
There's a little green gate
At whose trellis I wait
While two eyes o' blue
Come smilin' through at me

There's a gray lock or two in the brown of the hair
There's some silver in mine too, I see
But in all the long years
When the clouds brought their tears
Those two eyes o' blue
Kept smilin' through at me

And if ever I'm left in this world all alone
I shall wait for my call patiently
For if Heaven be kind
I shall wait there to find
Those two eyes o' blue
Come smilin' through at me

Inspired by the Broadway play "Smilin' Through" (1919)
(Arthur A. Penn)

Richard Werrenrath - 1919
Georgia Stark (feat. in the film "Smilin' Through") - 1932
Jeanette MacDonald (Film Soundtrack) - 1941
Vera Lynn (with Jay Wilbur & His Serenaders) - 1941
Richard Tauber - 1941
Webster Booth - 1942
George Morgan - 1961
John Gary - 1964
Cleo Laine & Dudley Moore - 1982

Also recorded by:
Nelson Eddy; Judy Garland; Lesley Garrett; Jo Stafford;
Mormon Tabernacle Choir; Richard Crooks; Gracie Fields;
Wayne Shorter Quartet; Benjamin Luxon; Charles Kullman;
John Charles Thomas; Kentucky Minstrels; Arthur Tracey;
Robert White; Anthony Kearns; Ginny Simms.