Shannon Taggart is an artist and photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her images have been exhibited and featured internationally, including in TIME, the New York Times Magazine, Discover, and Newsweek.
We talked about the release of her photography book Séance, which examines the history, issues, and impact of the Spiritualist movement, birthed in the 19th century and which survives to this day. There are literate and informative essays throughout, illustrated with rare and sometimes quite beautiful images and photographs from the history of Spiritualism and related areas of parapsychology, as well as her own stunning images of séances, psychic readings, and the objects associated with them.
We discussed her introduction to the world of the séance, and her eventual evolution into what she calls a “diplomat of spiritualism.” She also mentioned that some people (particularly urban sophisticates and some in the art world) seem to be interested in the paranormal, “but if you make it too real for them, they turn off.” She also gave us a fascinating insight into the phenomenon known as “ectoplasm,” and reports of the substance smelling like bodily fluids.
One of Shannon’s most interesting insights were her comparisons of photography and Spiritualism: “Through their dance with each other, [they] exposed each other’s limitations. We learned about photography’s complicated relationship with truth, and we learned about Spiritualism’s subjective truth.”