Spirit Photography Tricks the Sitter, Not Just the Viewer
The public wasn’t as familiar with the technical aspect of photographic development and lacked access to tricks used by the photographers to achieve a spirit image. For most, a photograph was the most accurate depiction of reality. But special effects photography would soon evolve from novelty to audience misdirection. Spirit photographers played with the developing process, creating strange artistic fantasy. Trick photographs like ‘headless’ photography or pictures that show a single person twice, making them look like twins were common parlor tricks, the sitter is in on the prank. In the case of double-exposure spirit photographs done as a novelty, this, too, is the case. In spirit photography, people believed because they weren’t in on the trick. The photographer applied their tricks in the dark room, out of sight of the subject. It was the Victorian version of today’s deepfake, and it sparked hot debate in Victorian circles.