Spirits Within: Preliminary Work

The following are a few of the preliminary images and sketches from my newest body of work born from an interest in spirit photography from the early 20th century. I began by taking picture of myself (because I work for free and am easily directed) to see what would happen when I used certain materials and certain exposures. Like the early spirit photographers I found that really obvious netting tends to yield the most ethereal results.

M. Levacy, test image for Spirit Series
M. Levacy, test image for Spirit Series
M. Levacy, test image for Spirit Series

I’m still experimenting though. I actually like some of the photographic results even though I really didn’t have specific goals in the process of taking them. I had visions floating in my head but little else to go by. Through these investigations I realized that I really need a model – the ability to pose and play with the fabric around a human form is going to be critical in achieving the results I’m looking for.

I can’t see without my glasses and do not want glasses in the shots so that pretty much rules me out… my husband offered to pose but for some reason I’m pretty set on it being a female. Fortunately I have a friend who models for other artists regularly who has agreed to pose for me at some point – at least now I have some ideas that will help me make better use of the studio time.

I like my sketches a lot better – but then I love to draw. I imagine that these will be an integral part of my preliminary work and possibly turn into works in their own right eventually. I like the way that I can manipulate line with graphite but I also feel the urge to add watercolor and gouache. These will come soon enough.

For now, I’m sketching in order to see more than anything. The eyes in my fingers are far more effective than the eyes in my head. (Especially when it comes to taking pictures of myself without glasses!)

M. Levacy, preliminary sketch for Spirit Series
M. Levacy, preliminary sketch for Spirit Series


  1. I really like the second photo and second sketch. Mostly because I feel like they push the illusion the most, which may or may not be your primary interest. In any case, I like this direction.

  2. You know, I am too. I’m very aware right now of two differing paths – the one I had previously envisioned and the one that is unfolding regardless of my intentions. The first image in both sets is more indicative of the first category, the second the later. This happens to me a lot. I like the frustrated “what the hell am I thinking” and “I’m trapped in this forsaken fabric” images more than I do the posed intentional ones. I am curious if I might miss some of this when I work with a model – but then – there is also room for collaborative exploration with a model that may work out to be just as evocative.

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