PhotoSummer: Artist's Statement

Barbara Diener

Phantom Power

In my previous body of work, Sehnsucht, I photographed in small, rural towns that triggered childhood memories. During that process I met and became fascinated with a woman named Kathy. She owns the diner in her town and lives on her husband's family farm, which is haunted by his ancestors. Her belief in the spectral sparked my own interest in the unexplained.

I was raised, if not atheist, certainly agnostic and that stuck with me. My father's death 11 years ago only strengthened that upbringing, although I have tried to contact him through a psychic medium as part of this project. According to her she was communicating with him and she did say a few things that gave me pause. But ultimately I could not believe that my dad would be summoned by a medium.

In the past photography has been credited with depicting the truth and representing reality, which makes it the perfect medium to question what we perceive and topple fact and fiction. Many of my photographs reference 19th century spirit photography directly through double exposures or long exposures, others reenact or reinterpret paranormal accounts, historical and contemporary, that I have read or heard about. To the people that report these stories they are real and true. The photographs I have made for Phantom Power certainly embrace the timely term 'alternate fact' and pose questions about truth, perception, reality, and human consciousness.

In recent years the paranormal has received amplified media attention through numerous 'reality' television programs that sensationalize any phenomena for the camera. On the contrary my approach is self-reflective and curious. To make the resulting images I have adopted both traditional and contemporary pseudoscientific methods of capturing the invisible, as well as employed my own interpretation of the magical and mystical.