The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

Capturing Spirit Photography with Professor Dan Schlapbach

Capturing Spirit Photography with Professor Dan Schlapbach

Loyola University Maryland’s Julio Fine Arts Gallery welcomes the Spring semester with its first spring exhibition titled “Apparitions & Manifestations.”

The exhibition, which opened on Jan. 7, was a product of photography professor Dan Schlapbach’s year-long sabbatical during the 2021-2022 academic year. Schlapbach, who was chairman of the visual and performing arts department for four years, took the time off to return to his artistic work.

“The goal of my sabbatical was to explore the notions of consciousness, particularly our tangled perceptions of reality in the duration of time between our sleeping and waking minds,” Schlapbach said in his exhibition statement.

To aid him in his work, Schlapbach turned to a series of books and articles for inspiration. In addition to such resources, he also gained inspiration from the research he conducted for his spirit photography class for the Spring of 2023.

“[My ideas] sort of evolved over time. Ultimately, it’s about consciousness and drilling down to the images specifically, what we see and what we think we see. So, our interpretations as viewers; what do see that is there and what they bring to the interpretation. That ability to explore what we get out of an image and what is there and what we as viewers get to make our own interpretation,” Schlapbach said.

Spirit photography was a 19th-century photography style that, like the ideas of spiritualism, was focused on the idea of ghosts. Its popularity mainly arose from the rise in spiritual practices, such as psychics or trance mediums. Though its popularity was debunked as trickery in the early 20th century, the ideas of spirit photography continue to be practiced by numerous photographers.

“I don’t see the images individually, but collectively. The images have conversations between each other; one photograph creates context, which then gives additional meaning and interpretation to each photograph,” Schlapbach said.

To add more to his exhibition, Schlapbach leaves the understanding of each of his pieces open to interpretation, with no concrete understanding of what the message of his photographs are.

 “I don’t really want any specific interpretation. It’s more about them thinking about how they read the image on their own and how much they can bring to the images that influences what the images mean,” Schlapbach said.

Even though the study of spirit photography was an inspiration to his work, Schlapbach said that he wouldn’t necessarily consider his exhibition a spirit photography exhibition, but he hopes that people view his work as if they were “invested in spirit.” 

“[Spirit photography] was made by trick photography and people believed that they were spirits because they wanted to believe that they were spirits,” Schlapbach said. “My exploration in spirit photography encouraged me to think that my photographs were not just about what I saw, but about what viewers brought to it.”

Schlapbach is looking forward to the opening of the exhibition and discovering what interpretation viewers take from his work.

“I really see the work as a collaboration between myself, my eye and my vision, and the viewers. I look at the exhibit as a puzzle and I hope people leave the exhibit with more questions than answers. I want people to be confronted with things that make them question everything around them,” Schlapbach said.

The “Apparitions and Manifestations” exhibition is open from Jan. 7 to Feb. 12. An opening reception will be held on Jan. 26 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Julio Fine Arts Gallery.

Featured Image Courtesy of Enrique Muchacho.

More to Discover
Activate Search
Capturing Spirit Photography with Professor Dan Schlapbach