September 7 – November 11, 2006
Opening Reception: Thursday, September 7, 7 – 9pm

7358 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA. 90036
Tel, 323.937.5525, Fax, 323.937.5523

Web site,
Hours, Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-5pm
Press Contact, Jeannine Schechter
Tel, 323.933.3932

Frederick Hudson, “Untitled,” c. 1870s.
Copyright the artist, courtesy of the Stephen Cohen Gallery.

Stephen Cohen Gallery announces a new show, “Immaterial World,” an exhibition of images exploring the provocative and haunting intersections of photography and the supernatural.  The show will include a selection of the earliest “spirit” photographs of the Victorian era which saw the rise of photography as a new and exciting technology ripe for exploration—and exploitation.  A group of contemporary work will provide a counterpoint to the early images and demonstrate modern photographers’ continued flirtation with the invisible world.  “Immaterial World” will run from September 7 to November 11, 2006 and will open with a reception on September 7 from 7:00 - 9:00p.m.

Capitalizing on the idea that the “invisible could be made visible,” 19th-Century “spiritualists” captured the imagination of a large group of people who had lost loved ones in the Civil War and witnessed the invention of photography, telegraphy, and microphotography, and the discovery of X-rays. But beyond bringing the dead back, “spiritualists” sought to explore and uncover the existence of a “spiritual truth” that was not accessible to normal powers of human perception and, upon finding it, to document it.

Perhaps the most notorious of the early spirit photographers in America was William H. Mumler, a rogue figure who simultaneously capitalized on the then little-understood technology of photography and the wildly popular Spiritualist movement.  Mumler fueled the belief that dead friends and relatives could communicate with the living through his now iconic photographs, which include a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln with her deceased husband and several conciliatory images of whites with dead Native Americans.  As the Spiritualist movement grew in popularity, so did spirit photography, attracting fervent devotees and inciting fierce intellectual debate around the world. While Mumler was active in Boston and New York, his contemporaries included the photographers Frederick Hudson in London and Edouard Isidore Buguet in Paris.

By the 20th Century, spirit photography had cemented itself as a balm for ordinary people who had lost loved ones to disease and war.  And as human grief propelled the public interest in the occult, photography was there to record the phenomena.

Over time, advances in scientific thinking may have debunked many myths related to the world beyond the grave, but they did little to disrupt photography’s devotion to making visible the unseen. Well into the middle of the 20th Century, photographers such as Hyppolyte Baraduc, Louis Darget, and Jules-Bernard Luys of France, Semyon Kirlian of Russia, and Ted Serios of the United States were experimenting with attempts to visually document thoughts, dreams and emotions. Manipulation of the image and interest in the unconscious presaged the surrealist photographers such as Clarence John Laughlin, Edmund Teske, and Jerry Uelsmann.  Contemporary work in the exhibit will include images by Adam Fuss, Christopher Bucklow and Stephen Berkman among others. This work is a further look at “spirit photography” as seen in the Metropolitan Museum’s recent exhibition, “The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult”

Following the opening reception for “Immaterial World” the gallery, which is located at 7358 Beverly Boulevard, will resume its regular hours scheduled on Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment.  For additional information on the exhibition, which runs through July 1, please call 323.937.5525 or visit

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