Today's New York Times previews "The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult," opening September 27 at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art
. It sounds spectacular. Seen here, "The Ghost of Bernadette Soubirous" (unknown, c.1890). From the article:
It is not a place you would normally expect to find a curator preparing for a major photography show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But a few summers ago, Pierre Apraxine was camped out on the third floor of a rambling town house on West 73rd Street near Central Park, the headquarters of the American Society for Psychical Research, a 120-year-old repository of the paranormal whose founders included the philosopher William James.
In the world of photo collecting and scholarship, Mr. Apraxine is nothing less than an institution. For almost two decades, he served as the eyes, ears and auction proxy for the philanthropist Howard Gilman, who built a collection - recently acquired by the Met - that is widely considered to be one of the most important in the world, thanks largely to Mr. Apraxine's expertise and globe-trotting tenacity.
On this particular day, however, Mr. Apraxine was working in the service not of photography but of the sixth sense, of that great invisible interchange that the Russian spiritualist Mme. Blavatsky described as a kind of astral post office. He had folded his lanky 6-foot-3 frame into a small, steel soundproof booth illuminated by a red lamp. Halves of Ping-Pong balls were taped over his eyes and headphones hissing white noise were placed over his ears. In a room nearby sat a fellow curator and friend, Sophie Schmit, who was given a randomly selected image on a piece of paper. The goal was for Mr. Apraxine, sealed in his chamber - lulled into a deeply relaxed condition known as a ganzfeld state - to receive the image that Ms. Schmit was sending.
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