Do you believe? Photography and Spiritualism

Among the fascinating vernacular images in Swann’s upcoming auction of Classic Photographs & Photobooks on December 12, is an album containing 27 photographs taken during seances from 1920 to 1922. These pictures, taken at Dr. Thomas Glendenning Hamilton’s Psychic Room in Winnipeg, Canada, include images of levitation experiments, teleplasm, materializations and psychic mediums in deep trances with supernormal ephemera. The silver prints are accompanied by copious explanatory handwritten text.

Dr. T.G. Hamilton was a Canadian psychiatrist and member of the Manitoba legislature. After the death of his young son, he took to Spiritualist investigations with mental telepathy, Ouija boards and table tipping. Using their nanny as a medium, the Hamilton family investigated paranormal phenomena such as rappings, psychokinesis, ectoplasms and materializations. Hamilton had a large bank of cameras, shown in the album, which he used to take thousands of photographs during seances held in his family’s home. 


The Hamilton family’s papers, scrapbooks, additional photographs and other ephemera relating to their Spiritualist research is housed in the archives of the University of Manitoba.

Hamilton’s photographs have also been exhibited at the Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art in Toronto, Magasin 3 in Stockholm, the Maison européenne de la photographie in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Check out our Vimeo video to see all pages in the album:

2335 35A from Swann Galleries on Vimeo.