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Inadvertent ImagesA History of Photographic Apparitions$
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Peter Geimer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226471877

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226471907.001.0001

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Case Study I: Signs of Life or “False Flames”?

Case Study I: Signs of Life or “False Flames”?

Jules Luys and the Controversy over “Effluviography”

(p.77) 3 Case Study I: Signs of Life or “False Flames”?
Inadvertent Images

Peter Geimer

, Gerrit Jackson
University of Chicago Press

This chapters examines the dialectic of fact and artifact in a case study on the so-called “effluviographs,” which, toward the end of the century, were regarded as proof of the existence of an invisible fluid of life. Skeptics objected: in the alleged discoveries of photography they saw photographic artifacts, mere defects and phantoms. The chapter demonstrates to what extent both producers of “effluviographs” and sceptics relied on photographic means to demonstrate that photography suffered from such dysfunctions. Everyone involved in the debates believed himself to be on the side of unprejudiced scientific inquiry, but considered from outside, the system of labels they applied did not fit into any clear hierarchy—say, of “scientific” versus “unscientific” applications, of “experimentation” versus of “occultism,” or of “true” versus “counterfeit” results. What emerges instead is an order of knowledge in which one and the same phenomenon may be read, depending on the observer’s vantage point, now as photographic accident and artifact, now as revelation and discovery.

Keywords:   phantom, occultism, fact, artifact, discovery

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