New York

Barbara Ess

Curt Marcus

Certain photographic traditions cannot be found in Beaumont Newhall’s canonical The History of Photography. Those odd spiritualist photographers who thought that the camera was the perfect medium for capturing supernatural phenomena are conspicuously absent. Apparently, Newhall found their images of floating heads and ectoplasmic emissions too gimicky to warrant a position in history, for his work did much to define photography in the positivist and modernist terms in which we speak of it today. Yet, if you had to fit the work of Barbara Ess into a tradition, it would lie somewhere between turn-of-thecentury pictorialism and this neglected ectoplasm-ism. Recently, she even organized an exhibit of works by the “thoughtographer” Ted Serios, who claimed that he could project his psychic visions onto Polaroid film. Ess’ own work, however, does not have the kitsch look of spiritualist trick

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