Shannon Taggart – Spiritualist Photography

Shannon Taggart is a professional photographer who also captures images of the ineffable world of spiritualism. A visit to the Spiritualist community of Lilydale in upstate New York and an incredibly specific psychic reading started her on a years-long quest to interface with and photograph the people of the town, their beliefs, and their practices.

The experiences and pictures she was getting surprised Taggart and blurred the lines between documentation, objectivity, and art. Unexpected lights, images, and “mistakes” in her photos called into question whether she was really just a chronicler of the rituals or was beginning to act as a participant and partner. For those used to photography as a form of pure representation, this interview may be either a revelation or an exercise in frustration. As Shannon said during the interview, “photography is a trickster medium.”

Before the show, Shannon described her frustration with explaining her attitude towards the paranormal and encapsulated a perfect approach with the phrase “I take this seriously, but not literally.” This should be a commandment to those who pursue an understanding of the unexplained.

We discussed the history and amazingly parallel development of photography and spiritualism: the first public seances were held less than a mile from the first Kodak facility in New York state within a few years of each other. Taggart also described her working method and how it allows for random events and results to enter the process – which may allow some effects that are meaningful to the subjects of her work. She recently attended a seminar which championed a return to the original methods of spirit photography, even the use of vintage equipment and rituals. She also described one Spiritualist who is using a movement tracker from an X-Box to achieve better results. She also described ectoplasm and her attempts to document this controversial phenomenon.

Finally, we discussed the crossover between her world and UFO study, and how a creative approach may be used in concert with a scientific mindset to explore new areas of research.


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5 Responses to Shannon Taggart – Spiritualist Photography

  1. The only way to study these “phenomena” is with the scientific method. I think it’s very dangerous to try and give this nonsense a veneer of scientific respectability and rationality. It’s irresponsible to further encourage mysticism and fuzzy thinking in this country. This all reminds me of the occult craze that started in the 60’s and we are still dealing with its repercussions today. I suspect all of this is part of a massive ongoing psyop campaign to keep Americans stupid, and therefore easily manipulated and controlled.

    • Greg says:

      Thank you for taking the time to listen and comment. I’m sorry if you find this discussion disturbing. Science is a great tool for understanding, but I don’t think it’s the only one. Also, I really don’t care if paranormal study has any “respectability” or not. There was no attempt or claim to to make this subjective approach appear “scientific.” I am fully aware that it is not. If we can keep from descending into belief systems and dogma, then we should be able to use any method which seems to offer some promise as one tool for study. People make the mistake that when something is discussed on this program, that means I think it’s the answer to everything. If some are afraid of even considering a creative approach to these enigmas as the doorway to some kind of “slippery slope” of fuzzy thinking, then that’s their problem. I prefer to examine varying methods of understanding, using them if they seem promising, and discarding them if not. Reason and logic are one half of our existence, and creativity and intuition are the other. I think that a balanced view of these subjects might be helpful.

      • Paul Kimball says:

        Lots of people have used the scientific method for terrible purposes (I can name a whole truckload of Nazis as just a starter, for example), and lots of people have used mysticism and spirituality for terrible purposes. But that doesn’t mean that the scientific method is inherently wrong (it isn’t, and I adhere to it), nor does it mean that mysticism and spirituality is wrong as a method of discovering truth (I also travel that path, at least to a degree). There is room in this world for all sorts of perspectives when it comes to the more existential and philosophical questions / mysteries we face (now, when it comes to public policy making, stick with science!). Exclude nothing. Accept nothing. Think for yourself, and find your own path.

  2. Jeff Ritzmann says:

    An interesting discussion Greg. As a lifetime working artist I can relate a great deal to some of the things Shannon brings up in connection with the artist and the paranormal.

    A serious hurdle to deal with in scientific examination of paranormal phenomena exists in the fact that science needs repeatable results. It also demands structure, and organization. These are things that are antithetical to the phenomena in the first place. What we need are new methodologies and protocols tailored to the attributes that surround these events, but still hold things to account. Deception is often present in the paranormal, whether from the phenomena itself or from those who are ‘agents’ of it – it may be required for science to act deceptively with those it is studying. This may only be the first step in several adjustments to classic scientific examination.

    We might have to accept some basic premises about what we’re studying to achieve success with documented results. One of those things may be that we have to acquiesce to deception and have it firmly in hand. To couple with it, rather than weed it out. Use it as an ‘ingredient’ for lack of a better word. And perhaps to inject discord, and break from routine in unexpected and unpredictable ways. Or, follow synchronicity when and if it appears to any team member within the study (whatever that may be). I do not believe we will get the proverbial lasso around it’s neck using traditional methods. We must learn to play around and within it’s game, and take what we can.

    The question was asked “is it real or is it not real?” The answer is yes.

  3. Shannon, I liked hearing about you talk about Lily Dale. Didn’t have such luck there with a medium myself, but enjoyed a day there, and have read the book by Christine Wicker. I’m from Rochester, and have an interest in the Fox Sisters. There’s a spiritualist church in Rochester, which I believe has been running services since the time of the Fox Sisters:

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