Documenting the Invisible: Spiritualism, Lily Dale, and Talking to the Dead


Lily Dale historian Ron Nagy in front of a rare painting of The Fox Sisters, founders of spiritualism.

An illustrated lecture by photographer Shannon Taggart
Date: Tuesday, August 31
Time: 8:00 PM
Admission: $5
Presented by Morbid Anatomy

Spiritualism is a loosely organized religion based primarily on a belief in the ability to communicate with spirits of the dead. The movement began in upstate New York in 1848 when two young girls named Margaret and Kate Fox claimed to be in contact with the spirit of a dead peddler buried beneath their home. Photographer Shannon Taggart first became aware of Spiritualism as a teenager when her cousin received a reading in Lily Dale, NY, The World’s Largest Spiritualist Community. A medium there revealed a strange family secret about the death of their grandfather that proved to be true. Taggart became deeply curious about how someone could possibly know such a thing.

Thus began a five year photography project focused on Modern Spiritualism. During her image making she immersed myself in the history and philosophy of Spiritualism, had more readings than she can count, experienced spiritual healings, took part in séances, attended a psychic college and sat in a medium’s cabinet, all with her camera. Despite this exposure she finds herself no closer to any definitive answer of what it all means. She feels as if she has peered into a mystery.

Shannon Taggart is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BFA in Applied Photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her images have appeared in numerous publications including Blind Spot, Tokion, TIME and Newsweek. Her work has been recognized by the Inge Morath Foundation, American Photography, the International Photography Awards, Photo District News and the Alexia Foundation for World Peace, among others. Her photographs have been shown at Photoworks in Brighton, England, The Photographic Resource Center in Boston, Redux Pictures in New York, the Stephen Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles and most recently at FotoFest 2010 in Houston. For more about Shannon Taggart, visit

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