Monday, December 12, 2011

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday, December 9, 2011

Found a roll of film in my closet. I have no idea how old it is or where I photographed it. It's definitely heat and light damaged, I wonder if this was rolling around in my car for awhile before I brought it in and promptly lost it.

I do find the images really incredible though. There are forms, but they look only like shadows, pareidolia is the only way you can see them. I keep thinking I recognize different people.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

An interesting addendum to the prior post (I really should be more diligent about updating this blog)...but I saw the Jackal again, my Spirit Guide. This time he was in the form of a Coyote.

I was bike riding under the first snow fall of the year, and as I exited the woods to head back onto the paved path, I saw a creature on the side of the road. It looked like a large dog, but different.

I coasted past locking eyes with the Coyote. I had seen him before, he was the one who met me in the Fayum. Time slowed and we stared, both straining our necks to watch the other. I was almost fifty feet past him when I realized what was happening, immediately I slammed my brakes, and of course this sound persuaded the jackal, I mean coyote, to trot up the road.

I stammered, fishing into my pack for my camera, but he kept moving. I snapped pictures in his direction, but they didn't turn out.

Cursing under my breath, thinking I missed another photographic moment, I looked down and saw his paw prints. They were enough.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

"The iconic properties of the more durable photograph will inevitably replace the myriad details of the experience represented in the image; in the end it is the photograph itself that is remembered" - Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977

In a recent trip overseas, I had an experience that has been shared by theorists and photographers since the inception of the medium. What is the correlation between memory and the photograph of the event?

"...not only is the Photograph never, in essence, a memory… but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes a counter-memory” - Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, 1980

Every photographer has anecdotal stories about missing an event or experience because of the nagging desire to document it. The performance of documenting, distorts and removes you from the moment.

More often than not I catch myself enjoying the experience of photographing an occurrence, as opposed to well...experiencing it.

I was in the outskirts of Cairo, in the middle of the Fayum Desert . We were visiting several largely unexcavated and undocumented Pharonic and Greco-roman sites. One of the largest and best known sites is the ruins of an ancient port town named Dimeh.

Dimeh al-Siba, Dimeh of the Lions, was a Ptolemaic city believed to be founded by Ptolemy II in the third century BC, on a site that shows evidence of habitation from the Neolithic period. Today, it is more isolated, but during ptolemaic times it was at the shore of the much larger lake, situated at the edge of Moeris Bay and the beginning of the caravan routes into the Western Desert.

As a child we had visited this place many times, and often came home with any number of treasures from Greek coins, statues, pottery, and more.

Even though it's been over a decade since I was here last, Dimeh looked mostly unchanged, albeit a little more picked over.

I had remembered that nearby there were burial mounds and tombs carved into the nearby plateaus. I recall there were visible human remains all around.

There was even one time my sister was digging around and I saw her walking in the distance with a human skull on a shovel. Believe it or not, we took it home, and I had it displayed in my room for a few weeks, until everyone deemed it to be a bit just to macabre for a middle-schooler, and we eventually returned it to the desert.

Visiting Dimeh again, I had to go back and see if my memories were correct.

You can see the plateau in the background, and a small burial mound in the foreground.

At the foot of the cliffs, I noticed a commotion, and out from a tomb leaps a Golden Egyptian Jackal. He scurried up the side, and spent a few moments looking over his shoulder at me, until he calmly trotted off.

The event was not frightening nor did I feel in any danger, it was just exciting! The jackal has long been a signifier of the afterlife and protector of the dead and their resting places. The Pharonic god Anubis is the most well known incarnation of that.

I made my way quickly up the side of the mountain, and reached the tomb. I sat at the opening and tried my best to snap pictures, but as brave as I was feeling...I didn't want to meet any more jackals who felt trapped. So at the mouth of the tomb I overexposed by several stops to get inside with my camera.

You can see the carved chambers, and partial femur bone in one of the nooks.

After exploring a bit, I made my way to the top of the plateau. There were several additional mounds up there, but more interestingly were these massive shafts/pits that seem to go on into infinite. I couldn't believe everything I was seeing, not only because it confirmed my memories, but more so it surpassed them!! Frantically I was taking images of everything, I was so afraid that this moment would go away, and maybe even more so that no one would believe me.

After some exploration, I saw more mounds off to the side, with white unmistakable objects protruding from their centers.

I rushed over, brushed the sand away from vertebrae, ribs, and flanges...and then saw the partial spherical shape, it could only be one thing. The skull was only partially sun bleached, the rest retained the yellow/brown tone. I photographed with one hand, and inspected with the other.

Almost on cue, I saw the jeep leave the main Dimeh site to come pick me up. I tried my best to rebury everything, and ran down to meet everyone.

With the jeep making tracks away from the site, I flipped my camera over to review and explain my experience and found only this.

40 images of white. I had never changed my camera settings. I lost everything.

An almost cinematic experience, when I approached one shaft, a host of pigeons flew out.

You can see the small fragments and pieces of fayence jewelry.


"At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint or even remember it. It is enough. No record of it needs to be kept and you don't need someone to share it with or tell it to. When that happens — that letting go — you let go because you can." – Toni Morrison

Friday, August 12, 2011

Photography captures spirit of the spirit world

Someone had just reminded me of this really exciting thing I got to be a part of! Shortly after grad school, I was teaching at IFP and they were kind enough to let me try a class about my passion, Paranormal Photography. I was lucky enough that it caught the interest of NPR/MPR, and we had a reporter document the class, and the story was eventually featured on "All Things Considered." I still very very fortunate to have had this experience.
It is transcribed exactly from the MPR page.

Photography captures spirit of the spirit world

Nikki Tundel, Minnesota Public Radio
All Things Considered, 12/08/2008, 4:51 p.m.

It's a question that's intrigued scientists and theologians -- and nearly everyone else who's ever walked the Earth.
That question: Is there life after death?

A Minneapolis photographer constantly searches for signs of an afterlife. Instead of looking to science or religion for evidence, though, he turns to his camera.

Nathan Lewis teaches the paranormal photography class at IFP in St. Paul. He says it combines his two loves -- fine arts and the unknown. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

Minneapolis, Minn. — Most photography professors wrap up the semester with a final student show. Instructor Nathan Lewis, on the other hand, concluded his course in the musty basement of a Minneapolis duplex, attempting to make contact with a ghost.

"We're a group of people who mean you no harm. Is there a way you could show us you might be here?"

On this night, Lewis and four photography students crouch between a home water heater and an old hideaway sofa, hoping for a signal from the spirit world.

"Anybody getting anything?"

This class member surveils the basement, trying to sense anything out of the ordinary. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

To understand how they ended up here, you first need to know where they began.

For years, the St. Paul media arts organization IFP has offered a wide range of photography classes. This fall it added one more: paranormal photography.

"We have to be really aware of what our cameras are doing," Lewis tells his class.

The class examines the history of spirit photography and discusses just how easy it can be to fake a ghost photo these days. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

Paranormal photography is based on the assumption that the camera can see things the human eye can't - like, say, ghosts.

Now, you might assume a class titled paranormal photography would focus on things like which shutter speed is ideal for capturing otherworldly entities or what kind of lens is best for grabbing shots of ghouls. But Nathan Lewis actually spends most of the course debunking so-called spirit photos.

"That is the reflection of the flash off the carpet," he says of one image.

Some people want so badly to prove the existence of the spirit world that they end up mistaking the mundane for the mysterious, Lewis says. He's met plenty of shutterbugs who swear they've captured an image of the paranormal. What they've often photographed, though, is their camera strap, which, unbeknownst to them, got in the way of the lens as they were taking the picture.

"Some images have a big orange dot somewhere in it. That's just a pixel misfiring."

Nathan Lewis shows one student's competed homework assignment, which was to create a ghost photo using any photography trick you choose. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

To those who believe strongly in the paranormal, Lewis can be a bit of a killjoy. But the way he sees it, if you're really seeking truth about the paranormal, you better be able to weed out what's false. And that's what prompted this class -- his desire to teach others to distinguish lens flares from apparitions. But there's a bigger question.

"I wanted people to be able to come in and talk about that completely intimate and completely ubiquitous idea: Is there life after death?"

Americans are in a constant tug-of-war when it comes to the idea of an afterlife, according to Lewis. We question the credibility -- even sanity -- of those who talk openly about their belief in spirits. Yet very few of us are willing to say that when we die, that's it.

"You want to know where you are going, if there's more to this."

This photo was taken by William Mumler in the early 1870s. It was Mumler's work that put spirit photography on the map. (Photo by William H. Mumler)

Of course, proving there's life after death can be a bit tricky. Which is why the people of the mid-1800s were so excited. They had a new technology that seemed to confirm that ghosts did indeed walk among the living. That technology? The camera.

Back in 1862, an amateur photographer named William Mumler set out to create a self-portrait. When he developed the picture, it showed his own image -- as well as the translucent figure of a young girl. Mumler identified her as his niece who had passed away years before.

The picture gave birth to what's now known as spirit photography.

Spirit photographer William Mumler took this Boston woman's picture around the year 1868. Mumler claimed the image of her deceased son appeared only when the picture was developed. To modern minds this looks like a typical double exposure. (Photo by William H. Mumler)

Spirit photographers claimed to be mediums between the world of the living and the dead. Everyone from grieving parents to heartbroken widows would sit for these spirit photographers, hoping the ghosts of deceased loved ones would show up during development. And, time after time, it appeared as if they had.

Today these photographs would likely be dismissed as quintessential double exposures, where two pictures are taken on the same piece of film.

But in those days, photography was still a mystery to most people. Seeing the camera create a permanent image of your sister was mind-blowing enough. Accepting that it could also capture the photo of a ghost wasn't that much of a stretch.

What's more, this all happened during the time of the Civil War. Mourning families relied on spirit photography. They wanted reassurance that those lost in the war were ok.

"Even though these images really seen obvious fakes, they don't speak of stupid speaks of desire, it speaks of this want and need to touch and communicate with a loved one. That's what it's about.

Nathan Lewis will flat out tell you that most paranormal photographs -- both historical and present day -- are fakes. But he says the lack of good photographic proof doesn't mean spirits don't exist.

Today some believe that orbs of light are the visual representation of spirits. Often times, though the orbs are really just specks of dust or pollen being lit up by the camera flash. (Copyright Ghostcircle)

It's the possibility of the paranormal that brought Lewis and his photography students to the basement of this Minneapolis home.

"You can use your flashlights but I'd say use them as sparingly as possible."

After studying ghost photos for weeks, Lewis wanted to give his students an opportunity to take some of their own. And this seemed like the perfect spot to do that.

The home's residents are convinced they're sharing their place with something supernatural. They've found storage boxes opened that they swear they didn't open. And, on a number of occasions, they've seen a shadowy figure making its way through the kitchen.

It's the kind of setting Lewis loves.

"I want to experience the supernatural. Is it because I live in a city and I have a good job and my biggest worry is normally if my cat got food, and I'm trying to experience things beyond my terrestrial life? Sure, that could be a good reason."

A class member uses an EMF meter to measure for any electromagnetic fluctuations. It's said that ghosts or spirits can distort electrical fields. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

Lewis holds an electromagnetic field, or EMF, meter. These detectors were designed to measure electromagnetic radiation levels from, say, microwaves or power lines. But it's said they can also read electricity emitted by spirits.

The meter beeps and spikes a number of times, although no one knows exactly why.

"A fuse just blew, which is interesting."

The final paranormal photography session took place in the supposedly haunted basement of a Minneapolis residential building. Instructor Nathan Lewis demonstrates what to look for when looking for ghosts. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

The students snap images of the basement's cow-webbed corners and the dark crevasses that would make perfect hiding places for shy spirits. But no one walks away with any great shots of ghosts.

Residents report odd noises and a strange vibe in the basement. They allowed paranormal investigators (as well as students of the paranormal photography class) to check the place out. (MPR/ Photo Nikki Tundel)

And that, says Lewis, is just fine.

"Is this really about getting 100% proof and evidence and breaking it down? No way. It's about the search. 'Is anyone out there? Will someone talk back to me?...Can I talk to you grandma? Are you still there? Are you ok?' Wanting proof that our loved one will go to a better place and in the end we're going to be together and it's going to be ok. That's really what we're searching and hoping for evidence on. We want to see everything's going to be ok.

And if you think about it that way, ghost stories, they're really just human stories.

Monday, August 1, 2011

I wonder if they'll think these were our dinosaurs.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lehnert & Landrock - 1905-1925

Lehnert & Landrock met in Switzerland in 1904. They were both 26 at the time, the former Austrian, the latter German. Both had been dreaming of visiting and working in the "Orient". German travel writers, explorers, archaeologists and anthropologists had done major studies of the Near East, especially in the 19th century, and this may have influenced their decision to settle in Tunis the year of their meeting. After World War I, upon their return to the Mahgreb, they were again in Tunis, and later in Cairo. Indeed, the firm still exists in Cairo today under the same name. A relative of Landrock donated all the known plates to the Musée de l’Élysée in Lausanne.
There have been numerous articles and monographs about their work and increasingly L & L are becoming recognized as one of the best studios working in this area during this period. The photographs were, in fact, taken by Lehnert, while Landrock supplied the business acumen. Lehnert also worked for a brief period (1922-24) in Algiers for Jouvet, although Jouvet’s studio mark does not credit him. Lehnert made a body of independent work, mostly of male and female nudes. They are quite rare, though some have appeared at auctions, most recently in a lot of male erotica including von Gloeden et al. in a Christie’s London sale.
There are several distinguishing features to a Lehnert photograph. Desert scenes are simple, but formally composed (Desert Lookouts, Desert Sentinels) reflecting his early training as a painter and art student. Lone figures, or a group of lone figures are usually dwarfed by sand dunes, forming one of his favorite motifs, the power and influence of the desert and nature over man. There is a large body of female nude work, and of eroticized male adolescent images. Nude with Veil is especially representative of this genre. Such work was exceptional for the other photographers working in North Africa, but for L & L we might call it common. Several important female and male images are posted in the Gallery section, including two rare silver prints (Harem Nudes, Nude with Veil).
The output of the firm was enormous. It included vintage photographs, heliogravures, original photographic postcards, heliogravure postcards, and contributions to innumerable books. See Bibliography below for a list of reference works.

Very beautiful work, at times reminds me of a mix between EJ Bellocq and Edward S Curtis. Without question the models were subjected to the fetishisation (sp?) of Orientalism, although whether it was malicious or curious I do not know. Their more comprehensive exploration of Cairo, and other cities, seem earnest and thoughtful.

For more information visit these sites: