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Shinrei Shashin: Photographs of Ghosts in Japanese Snapshots

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Some Japanese snapshot photographs are believed to include images of ghosts, known in Japan as shinrei shashin . This phenomenon is examined in a series of personal interviews and an historical overview of ghost beliefs in Japan. Japanese ghost belief, imagery, and reference have roots in myth, folklore, and theater and can be found in mass media including film, manga, anime, novels, short stories, and now video games. But appearance in home media has been overlooked. The topic of ghost snapshots is seldom mentioned in Japan but is familiar to virtually all Japanese; even temples and shrines have remedies. Rather than attempting to offer a definitive truth or to judge the verisimilitude of the problematic existence of visualized ghosts, I consider logical ways whereby relationships among belief in ghosts, photographic representation, and Japanese culture can exist. This case study presents a challenge to the dominant theories of photography, when cross-cultural examples can necessitate a need to re-evaluate how we think about cultural dimensions of implication, inference, and communication in photographic representation.


Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175145108784861428

Publication date: July 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Photography & Culture is a refereed journal that is international in its scope and inter-disciplinary in its contributions. It aims to interrogate the contextual and historic breadth of photographic practice from a range of informed perspectives and to encourage new insights into the media through original and incisive writing.

    Photography & Culture publishes research papers, discursive critiques, and reviews. In doing so, it offers a leading platform for critical thinking on photography and as essential reading the world over for academics, curators and practitioners with a central and indeed tangential interest in the media.

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