Mrs. Tinkman
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William Mumler
American, about 1861
Albumen silver print


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The Spiritualist movement was founded on the belief that the human soul exists beyond the body and that the dead could communicate with the living. This concept developed in the 1850s and gained momentum in the United States after the Civil War. Mumler claimed to be able to photograph the spirits of departed loved ones. Although his methods were never disclosed, he made ghostly images by incorporating an existing picture of the deceased into a new photograph he made of the surviving relative. His eight-year-long activity was marked by highly publicized civil court trials for fraud.