William H. Mumler ( 1832-1884; active Boston & New York)

Unidentified Man with Two Spirits

Albumen print carte de visite, circa 1870.

This image, unlike the other examples in this gallery, does not seem to show a celebrity or noted spiritualist. Perhaps this sitter is more typical of those who flocked to Mumler's galleries, seeking contact with deceased relatives or friends.

Members of photographic trade groups sought to condemn Mumler as a matter of professional pride and public service. The New York photographer Abraham Bogardus testified at Mumler's 1869 court hearing that he belonged to the National Photographic Association, which had among its goals "putting down any humbug we could discover." After the court dropped charges against Mumler, the Photographic Section of The American Institute passed a resolution "That the Photographic Section... take the earliest opportunity to condemn all such methods of working upon the credulous and uninitiated."

 

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Bibliography:
Jennifer L. Mnookin, "The Image of Truth: Photographic Evidence and the Power of Analogy," Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, vol. 10 no. 1, Winter 1998.

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