Big Ups

This photo from the latter days of the spiritualist era has always exerted a strong pull on my imagination. Enough to override the blatant dupery it so obviously depicts.  Something about the composition, and the implicit tension evoked by the contrast between the contorted posture of the medium and the mostly relaxed forms of the sitters around him gives great visual weight to the suggestion that he is drawing the power to levitate from their collective energies. The horizontal pipe even suggests something of a crucifixion, if only in the subconscious. The medium in question is Colin Evans, one of the more famous practitioners of that period. The photo dates from 1938 and was taken in total darkness, using infrared light and a hand trigger that Evans made no effort to conceal. The fact that he had nearly achieved a fully extended position when the photo was taken is likely why this particular shot has so much “staying power” (if you’ll pardon the pun). Additional photos of the same feat make it much more obvious that he is in the act of leaping. A survey of “psychical research” published only a year later revealed that not even the attendees of this performance were fooled, as Evans was forced to refund his payment. Nonetheless, I must admit he had an impressive vertical leap for a tweedy little man. Who says white boys can’t jump?