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Séance: Spiritualism, Photography and the Search for Ectoplasm


November 15, 2023, 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Location: Online

Eight hands form a semi-circle on a tabletop, palms down

Shannon Taggart first learned of Spiritualism as a teenager after a medium revealed details about her grandfather’s death that proved to be true. In 2001, she began photographing in the town where that message was received: Lily Dale, New York. Her project soon expanded to include séance rooms around the world in a quest to find and photograph ectoplasm — the elusive substance that is said to be both spiritual and material. In this illustrated presentation, Taggart will share stories and pictures from twenty years of photographing mediumship, explaining how two decades of investigation developed into the award-winning book Séance (Fulgur Press 2019, Atelier Éditions 2022). Spiritualism’s influence on art, technology, and politics, its relationship with celebrity spirits, and the religion’s intrinsic bond with photography will be part of the discussion.

This is the fifth in a series of six lectures, Beyond the Veil: Making Sense of the Spirit World, the fall 2023 Albin O. Kuhn Library and Gallery Spotlight! symposium. The symposium presents speakers who explore themes from the Special Collections’ Eileen J. Garrett Parapsychology Foundation collection, such as the history of human interaction (beliefs and practices) with supernatural, paranormal, mystic, and psychical phenomena, as well as the interaction of race, spiritualities, magic, mysticism and feminist expression with the otherworldly.

Shannon Taggart is an artist and author based in St. Paul, Minnesota. In a past life, she contributed to printed publications including TIME, Newsweek, New York Times Magazine, Discover, New York, The Wall Street Journal and Reader’s Digest. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles, the Photographic Resource Center in Boston, the Robert Mann Gallery in New York, and the Gallery of Everything in London. Her photographs have been recognized by PDN, Nikon, Magnum Photos + Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography, the International Photography Awards and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace. Her monograph, Séance (Fulgur Press 2019, Atelier Éditions 2022), was named one of TIME Magazine’s ‘Best Photobooks of 2019.’

Admission is free. Please join this event online via Webex.

Image: Shannon Taggart, Table-tipping workshop with mediums Reverend Jane and Chris Howarth. Erie, Pennsylvania, 2014. © Shannon Taggart. Courtesy of the Artist.



November 15, 2023
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
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