Spectral Bodies and Superimposition in Photography and Film


  • Daria Ioan Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania


transparency, blur, superimposition, vanishing acts, post-mortem photography, spirit photography, ectoplasms, fantastic film, magicians, spectrality


During the Victorian age, post-mortem and spirit photography became increasingly popular so that those who had lost dear people were offered an extended mourning ground. These types of images were produced in great number in order to prove the existence of the other world. It is natural that many of these dead people portraits deal with transparency, blur and diffusion, as the result of superimposing reality and spectrality. Later on, ectoplasms were caught on photosensitive materials by a great number of spirit hunters, aiming at the same purpose of demonstrating the physicality of the invisible order. Cinema imported the spiritualist themes and the subjects related to them and continued the same tradition of revealing to the common eye of the spectator a supernatural realm. Our paper analyses the aesthetics of different styles and techniques of working with these delicate subjects in photography and film throughout the ages, from Mumler to Méliès.

Author Biography

Daria Ioan, Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

DARIA IOAN specializes in photography. She completed a PhD in theatre and another one in Cinematography-Photography-Media at the Faculty of Theatre and Film, Babeş-Bolyai University. She is the author of Teatrul lui Jon Fosse (Cluj: Casa Cărții de Știință, 2013) as well as of “The Nebulous Empire. The Magic of Blur and Shining” (Cinematographic Art & Documentation, 2019), “Vanishing Acts in Film and Photography” (Cinematographic Art & Documentation, 2018), “Laurie Anderson’s Heart of a Dog. A post-cinematic journey through affection (Ekphrasis, 2016), “Diane Arbus. Întrebări deschise pentru o nouă estetică în fotografie” (Revart – Revista de teorie și critica artei 2015), “The hard task of the resurrected body in Leos Carax’s Holly Motors. A baroque organs’ space poetry in film”, (Ekphrasis, 2014), “A woman’s 69 looks. Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills” (Ekphrasis, 2011), “The Photographic Treatment of Emotion in Front of a Stage. Bill Henson: The Opera Project” (Ekphrasis, 2009) etc.




How to Cite

Ioan, D. (2023). Spectral Bodies and Superimposition in Photography and Film. Studia Universitatis Babeș-Bolyai - Dramatica, 68(1), 43–70. Retrieved from https://dramatica.ro/index.php/j/article/view/270