We tend to think of ourselves as sophisticated readers of photographs—or at least in comparison with our 19th-century forebears, who were more innocent about the camera's objectivity. The exhibition The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult, which opened at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art on Sept. 27, should cause us to think twice. The exhibit includes works made as early as just after the Civil War and as late as the 1970s, but most of the images cluster around the turn of the 19th and first part of the 20th century. Together, they provide a quick history lesson in early reactions to the emerging technology, its mass dissemination, and its claims to veracity—a lesson that feels oddly contemporary. Maybe the viewers of yesteryear weren't quite the suckers we thought they were.
Click here to read a slide-show essay about spirit photography.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Democrats’ War at Home
How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
Why Time Is on Our Side in the Fight Against Ebola
Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing
Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses
Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.
Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.
How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.
How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully
On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.