Shannon Taggart (USA): The Spiritualists
Inge Morath Award Finalist, 2005
Gallery offline – updating soon
I asked these spirit figures if I was seeing them or if I was seeing what was in my own brain. They answered “both.”
-Eileen Garrett, twentieth century medium
Spiritualism is a loosely organized religion based primarily on a belief in the ability to communicate with spirits of the dead. I first became aware of Spiritualism as a teenager after my cousin received a reading from a Spiritualist medium. This woman revealed a strange family secret about my grandfather’s death that proved to be true. Since then I have been deeply curious about how someone could possibly know such a thing.
I began photographing at Lily Dale, the world’s largest Spiritualist community, in 2001. Since then I have immersed myself in the history and philosophy of Spiritualism, experienced numerous spiritual healings, had more readings than I can count, took part in a myriad of circles and séances, attended a psychic college, witnessed a multitude of church services and sat in a medium’s cabinet, all with my camera. Despite this exposure, I find I am no closer to any definitive answer. It’s as if I’ve peered into a mystery.
My intention with these photographs is to document this religion’s practices and to illustrate what it means to be a Spiritualist, but also to address certain themes. They are meant as a meditation on mortality and the precarious line between life and death. They are an attempt to examine how the individual experiences God uniquely and to probe that other level of consciousness. Finally, the images are an effort to manifest the unseen and to pose the question “What if?”
Featured / Hired / Published:
American Idol (television) / American Heritage / Blind Spot 14 & 23 / Budget Travel / BusinessWeek / Bust / Citigroup / Corbis (brand campaign) / Details / Discover / Heeb / Kiplinger’s Personal Finance / Men’s Health / Newsweek / New York Magazine / Psychology Today / Random House / Reader’s Digest / Res / TIME / Time Out New York / Time Out New York Kids / YRB Magazine
Awards / Honors:
Alexia Foundation for World Peace / American Photography 18 & 21 / Inge Morath Award Finalist / Miami Herald Grant / Nikon Shooting Star / PDN’s 30: Young Photographers to Watch
Stephen Cohen Gallery, Los Angeles / Immaterial World Redux Pictures, New York / The Spiritualists Photographic Resource Center, Boston Concerning the Spiritual in Photography / Robert Mann Gallery, New York / Blind Spot 14: YNOT