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F. M. Parkes

Hometown: London, England

Studio: 6 Gaynes Park Terrace, Grove Road, Bow, London, England

F. M. Parkes was a British spirit photographer who operated out of London, England from the 1870s to 1890s. Parkes claimed to have visions since he was a boy and stated that he would “I see spirits or scenes just the same when my eyes are open as when they are shut”[1] He originally worked in partnership with the medium Mr. Reeves. When Reeves moved to Canada, Parkes continued taking spirit photographs but was unable to produce significant quality pictures without him.

Parke’s photographs had a unique “sketch look” and he had developed a technique for taking spirit photographs using magnesium light. Parkes set it as a condition to have the plates in his possession in the dark room prior to their being placed in the camera for purposes of magnetization. To avert suspicion he had an inspection hole cut in the darkroom through which the sitters could see the plate through its entire process.

Parkes charged 1 guinea per sitting. He was able to produce two to three pictures a day but the results were better if he practiced every other day. When he sometimes struggled with spirit photography, he stated “spirits are not amenable to the lens”[2] and “a successful spirit photograph could not be bought with money”[3].

One sitter described his experience with Parkes as follows:

Your readers, perhaps, will be interested in hearing that I have obtained a spirit-photograph. A spirit-form appeared with my likeness on the plate, taken with the magnesium light, by Mr. F. Parkes, 6, Gaynes Pork Terrace, Grove Road, Bow, as a specimen of his mediumistic art. I recognized the image, or likeness of my father’s, second wife, who departed this life about ten years ago. She was quite unknown in earth-life both to Mr. Parkes or any of the friends present. Therefore, as far as I am able to judge of its identity, I have every reason to believe it to be a genuine test. -Charles Crowe

The Medium and Daybreak – March 12th, 1875

In 1892 Parkes was accused of fraud when a customer claimed to have seen the same spirit produced on other negatives with other sitters.[4] When describing the authenticity of his photos Parkes felt that the recognition of a spirit photograph was the only true test and that out of 400 negatives bearing spirit images, 100 of them were recognized.[5]

[1] The Spiritualist – April 2nd, 1875
[2] The Spiritualist – June 30th, 1876
[3] The Spiritualist – Dec 10th, 1875
[4] Light – July 23rd, 1892
[5] The Medium and Daybreak – April 14th, 1876

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