What is it about?

This article examines the cameraless negatives revealing the imprints of four fingers obtained in Turin in February 1907 during a séances with renowned medium Eusapia Palladino. It presents spiritualist cameraless photography as a productive tool for rethinking and reframing the photographic medium from a cross-disciplinary perspective questioning medium specific histories and dominant genealogies.

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Why is it important?

Spiritualist cameraless photography offers a productive case study for rethinking and reframing the photographic medium for different interconnected reasons. As part of the history of the material and visual cultures of science, it provides an example of the necessity of moving beyond medium specific histories. As off-camera proto-operational image-objects linked to fantasies of nonhuman agencies and produced well before the introduction of automation and the digital, spiritualist cameraless photographs offer a tool for the historical reconceptualization of the medium that problematizes the dominant narrative of a revolutionary post-photographic era resulting from the introduction of computers, digitalization and the internet. As low quality and scarcely appealing negative images, they have been often overlooked by a historiography still largely focused on ‘successful’ positive printed images. As objects that are physically nowhere to be found, and that have reached us only in the form of their print reproductions in books, they call for inquiries that investigate photography’s remediation, that do not privilege presence over absence and that put more effort into trying to make sense of lacking or marginalized items within collections and archives.


I hope this articles makes people think about photographs as part of and of integrated networks of different media, technologies, fields of knowledge, practices, materialities and imaginings.

Nicoletta Leonardi
Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera

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This page is a summary of: Spiritualism and the material performance of cameraless photography: Notes on and around a séance with Eusapia Palladino, Philosophy of Photography, April 2022, Intellect,
DOI: 10.1386/pop_00040_1.
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