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

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and receive the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the September 1992 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.