In This Issue: Close Encounters

Article excerpt

Light and shadow. Truth or fiction. Last week on an airplane from the west to the east coast, I read Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows.1 With this exquisite meditation on the significance of Eadweard Muybridge's photographic time-and-motion studies, I found myself delightfully resigned to my own time-and-motion experience. Passing through four times zones, the flight began in late morning and ended at midnight in New York. I felt robbed of time, yet also strangely exhilarated by a long day of travel. On the drive home from the airport, I experienced ethereal visions emanating from the hood of the car which I attributed to fatigue and oncoming headlights on a hot, hazy night.

Seeing is believing. Or as Mary Anne Staniszewski and others have suggested, believing is seeing.2 With the emerging technology of the camera, both Muybridge and nineteenth-century "spirit photographers" catapulted observers into encounters with events and phenomena inaccessible to the human eye. Freezing motion or annealing vaporous or visceral presences, photographs both expanded and confounded credulity.

Mark Alice Durant and Jane Marsching organized a searching panel on the paranormal and photography for the College Art Association's 2002 Annual Conference. This served as the foundation for the intriguing thematic investigation they have developed for this issue. For Photography and the Paranormal, Durant and Marsching, with Alison Ferris, Louis Kaplan, and Karl Schoonover, explore the aesthetic tensions of the ordinary and uncanny in the first 150 years of photography. Starting with nineteenth-century spirit photography, they explore the complex alchemy between emerging technologies and inexplicable occurrences, between vision and visions. …