william mumler’s spirit photography

for piano

Marc Yeats

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for piano

£14.99
£9.99
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Composer Marc Yeats
Composer

Year of Composition

Instrumentation

Duration

ca. 10'

Student Difficulty

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-my1wmsp1

Notes

In 1861 William Mumler was working as a jewelry engraver in Boston and dabbling in photography on the side. One day, after developing a self-portrait, he noticed what appeared to be the shadowy figure of a young girl floating beside his own likeness. Mumler assumed it was an accident, the trace of an earlier negative made with the same plate, but friends told him the figure resembled his dead cousin. Soon the unusual photo came to the attention of the spiritualist community, who proclaimed it to be the first photo ever taken of a spirit. Mumler didn’t argue with them. Instead he took advantage of the interest in the photo to go into business as the world’s first spirit photographer. He grew wealthy producing spirit photos for grief-stricken clients who had lost relatives in the Civil War. However, Mumler attracted an enormous number of critics as well as supporters. Some members of the spiritualist community accused him of fraud, alleging that the “spirits” in his photo resembled people who were not only still alive, but who had sat for him recently. Rival photographers grew increasingly alarmed at his popularity, believing that he was blackening the reputation of the profession.

Written for Ian Pace and dedicated to Chrissie Caulfield.