Nathan Lewis, We are Building Ghost Towns, and I will Plant Birds, 2009
It is my belief that Photography and Spiritualism are deeply related. One medium intends to the revive the dead, whereas the other attempts to stop one from ever dying.
With either definition the fact remains that they both desire to arrest the evanescent reflections of the mind and tangible world, in hopes to prove one with the other.
Photography can "convince the unprejudiced inquirer or the rational and sincere believer, that is is impossible that his faith be false" - George Stein Keith, 1844
An interesting, if not anecdotal, fact is that George Eastman grew up in Rochester, NY where in 1880 he entered the Photography business and eventually created the Kodak camera.
As a boy he must have been aware of some of the most famous National celebrities living in his hometown, Kate and Margaret Fox.
The Fox sisters ushered in the phenomena of American Spiritualism. In 1848 the young girls heard unearthly raps communicating with them through their walls. From then on they were catapulted into a life of Spirit Communication on a national level. These sisters are probably the most influential figures in terms of American Spiritualism, and it goes without saying that Eastman holds the same title in American Photography.
There is no telling if Eastman ever met the Fox sisters, but it is not hard to imagine he was aware of them. Their performances and stories often made the Newspapers. That being said, it is impossible to say if the Foxs had a personal influence on Eastman, but shortly after his family's relocation to Rochester, his father passed away. It potentially could have been this loss that sent him in pursuit of a way to fix memory and deny death.
My point alone is...it is at least interesting to note the physical and ideological proximity between these two mediums.
It is also fascinating that in 1826 the first theatrical performance in the city of Rochester was:
Thalw - Death alone can make me comply with such a demand.
Bar - No,no; There's to be no death: a temporary removal is all that will be required.
Thalw - Very well, but as for me, baron, I do not stir.
Blum - I'm fixed as her guardian angel.
Bar - Then matters remain as they were.
Thalw - What do you call removal?
Blum - The term is extremely vague
Bar - That question you may settle between yourselves.
Nathan Lewis, Untitled, 2007