From Behind The Curtain, 2011, Archival Photographic Digital Print, 30 x 23 inches
Spirit Talking, 2012, Archival Photographic Digital Print, 30 x 23 inches
Since the invention of photography, the camera has been imagined as a substitute for, and even as an extension of eyesight, and the photograph has been given the status of visual reality. Not only did technological advancements allow photography to surpass human visual capacities, but also through use of a human medium channeling the dead, the camera registered ghosts imperceptible to an unaided eye. Specifically, several nineteenth-century photographers used the camera as a conduit through which specters or invisible realities were captured. Akin to spirit photography, Staples’ body of work represents the occult, namely unconventional healing practices. However, distinct from spirit photography, which, by exposing the existence of ghosts, countered scientific conceptions of the world as one-dimensional, Staples does not reveal the supernatural methods by which healing mechanisms function. Rather, her work reifies the success underlying the continuation of occult systems of beliefs. By documenting and exhibiting contemporary mystics and mystical treatments, her work challenges normative assumptions of the occult as archaic, foreign, and clandestine. In particular, the subjects contradict the dominant portrayal of healers in popular culture, such as the witch and her cauldron. Drawing upon society’s inability to distinguish between time-honored practice and representations propagated by the media, Staples concocts and documents the use of home-made curatives, further confounding distinctions between established practices and hoax. While this aspect undermines the reliability of superstitious panaceas, Staples’ project is not a pejorative critique of the occult, but highlights the power of belief as remedial.
More information available at www.juliastaples.com