Shannon Taggart is a Brooklyn-based photographer who has dedicated a great part of her career in capturing the mysterious world of spiritualism. Since 2001, she has managed to photograph quite a trove of strange phenomena, ranging from bending spoons to dancing ectoplasm.
Taggart entered the world of seances and mediums almost by chance. Lily Dale is a small town in New York that holds one of the most important spiritualist communities in the globe, renown since the early 20th century for hosting prominent mediums and thinkers of the practice.
Taggart’s cousin once attended a ‘message service’ in Lily Dale; a public assembly where select mediums ‘link’ with the realm of the dead and provide bits and pieces of scattered communications to attendees. Mediums pick people at random and give them a short message from someone who has deceased.
Taggart’s cousin was picked out, and the medium told her a secret that nobody outside the family could have known. This triggered in Taggart a strong fascination that led her to spend 16 years working on the subject.
Shannon has photographed innumerable seance sessions and has experienced her fair share of eerie scenes, like her encounter with medium Gordon Garforth, who is capable of inflating his hand and deforming his face while in session.
She told Don Jolly in an interview for The Revealer, “I had that experience of seeing that hand get large,” she explained.
“I don’t know how it happened. Whether it’s a hand actually getting large in front of my face and I was creating a photograph that documented it, or whether it’s that I was tricked somehow or I had a hypnotic experience and then my camera, through its dysfunction, mimicked that experience… I mean, all of those are interesting perspectives. I love that they’re all there.”
Despite her experiences, the Brooklyn photographer doesn’t label herself either as believer or a skeptic. What fascinates her is the personal interior reaction these practices provoke in witnesses and believers. For her, It’s all a matter of perspective and interpretation.
Taggart’s current project is to collect all her experiences in Séance: Spiritualism Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm, a book containing Taggart’s pictures accompanied by historical documents and original text explaining spiritualism’s historical significance and its relation to 19th century society and popular culture.
You can preorder her book at her page at Unbound.