A ghost appeared on celluloid frame
I’ve always been passionate about photography. Especially black and white darkroom photography. There’s something intriguing about the way film catches a moment in time, and then everything keeps moving. Photography wasn’t always so readily available. Nowadays everybody has their hands on a way to take photos, but in high school when all I had was a flip phone, I enjoyed using analog film.
One day in high school I was working on a photography project for school. Using my Holga camera, I took some photos of my little sister around my parent’s yard. Holga is an interesting type of camera, it’s basically a light box. Unlike an analog SLR camera, Holga has no light meter and no aperture focus. You just point and shoot, and hope that you stood at the correct distance, and that there was proper lighting.
During this particular shoot, I dressed my sister up in costumes, and had her pose in various ways. Some in the yard, and some in the pool. I don’t know what it was about this particular day, but the photos all came out really strange. When I developed them at the photo lab I was shocked at the results. I had experimented with some new techniques, like long exposure and double exposure, but I didn’t expect them to come out this spooky.
My goal was to create images that were uncanny and strange. The uncanny is something that is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. Freud’s essay on the uncanny, is the most prolific description of the phenomenon. Some examples of the uncanny include: doppelgangers, a playground at night, a teddy bear with life-like eyes, android robots that look like humans. Anything that seems familiar, but there’s something not quite right about it, making it unfamiliar at the same time.
The title image, Ghostly Girl, was the most haunting to me. My sister was sitting on the fence that led to a cow field, it seemed to be a normal pose. Yet, when I developed the film, her face was gone entirely. It’s almost as if she was disappearing into the camera. I wasn’t exactly sure how I had generated this shot. That’s the exciting thing about using a Holga camera, you can generate results impossible to get with a regular SLR.
This is an image of my sister emerging from the pool, right before she broke the water. I find this photo especially uncanny. Her features are distorted and crude. She looks evil, not like a seven-year-old girl. It made me think about the liminal spaces we exist in. These spaces that transcend what is here and what is there. Like a hospital waiting room, or a staircase. People inhabit these spaces briefly, they are transitory. The moment before you emerge when swimming is a liminal space. An exit point, uniting two separate worlds.
This image was the result of a double exposure, I simply had my sister move from one position to another and I took the shot twice one the same frame. I find this image uncanny as well, it reminded me of a doppelganger. The two sides of a person, maybe one good, one evil.
Photography is interesting, you have to gather your own meaning from the visual if you don’t have the artist to explain what their intention was, or what the process in creating the image was. I like the idea of capturing normal circumstances, yet the celluloid world interprets this real-life visual as something completely different. The image is copied from real-life and then grows into its own lifeform. I hope that these images have spooked you, like I was the day I developed this roll of film.