97: Jamie Campbell

Jamie Campbell
A Light Within

Series Statement: In the spring of 1861, William H. Mumler, a distinguished jeweler's engraver turned photographer captured the first Spirit Photograph. This was not necessarily the first photograph of its kind, but the first recorded in history with claims of visually reproducing the dead in the form of a faint, yet recognizable ghost-like figure. With a rapidly growing Spiritualist movement, which believed that the spirits of the dead had the ability and inclination to communicate meaningfully with the living, Mumler's wet-plate negatives were praised as revelations and evidence from the spiritual world. Although ridiculed as a hoax by many non-believers and being tried in a court of law as a fraud eight years after creating his very first Spirit Photograph, Mumler stood by his assertion that the ghost-like spirits appearing in his photographs were of no influence or manipulation of his own. Although the jury could not find him guilty, in my personal account of photographic history, William H. Mumler single handedly created skepticism and doubt around the very medium praised for its authenticity and objective truth-telling.

My new image based series, "Looking Askance" examines the skepticism based around photography as a medium of objective representation. Through staged scenarios and carefully constructed Mise en scène type images stylized around archetypal ideas of sci-fi and the supernatural, my work brings to question the truth and fiction occurring in front of, and behind, the camera's lens. It begs the audience to scrutinize the photograph, to look askance and question the authenticity of a represented reality.

This project carries on the tradition of fakery and visual absurdity through the ghost motif and intervention of the otherworld. Compared to Mumler's elaborate Spirits, my modest representation of the sheeted-ghost references the otherworld, while still visually confirming a connection to the familiar. Through unveiled feet, which are still firmly and physically planted in a universe we can know, the viewer can see and understand the realness of the situation and mentally untangle what seems to appear unexplainable. My work creates an image idea of a situation, which in actuality never occurred.