Call for Papers Vol. 5, no. 1 - Magic

[ARCHIVE CFP - Published in autumn 2019]

Since the invention of photography, our relationship with the medium, the image taking apparatus and photographs as objects has always been invested with a set of beliefs in the excessive, pervasive, almost magical power of photography. 

From early belief in the photography’s ‘soul-stealing’ capabilities to the contemporary belief in photography’s ‘data-stealing’ ones, our understanding of the origin of medium’s special power changed and evolved – for example from being anchored in the magical emanation of the objects onto paper to datafied signification within the omnipresent apparatus of social surveillance. But the belief in some sort of special power of photography persists, our continuous investment with mystical qualities making it one of the most enchanted technologies of present day. 

This investment goes well beyond vernacular fascination with photographs of loved ones being something more than their mere pictorial representations and extends beyond professional and institutional settings into the very foundations of photographic theory. The magical element of photography was addressed in Benjaminian fissure between the shamanistic and chirurgic, in Barthesian insistence on photography as magic rather than art, in Piercean simultaneity of iconicity and indexicality, in Marxist and psychoanalytical notions of photography’s fetishism etc. In practices as diverse as photojournalism and spiritualism, photography has been invested with the notion that it can reveal more than the human eye, piercing the reality and turning unseen into seen, absent into present, distant into close, transgressing both the limitations of human perception and physical limitations of space and time. It is no surprise that it was and is intensively used to grasp the world further removed from our own senses but at the same time it could never be reduced to just being an extension of our senses. 

It conjured up new dimensions of seeing – distinctly photographic ones – and had never stopped stirring the search for the unknown, unseen, incomprehensible, excessive, enchanted – the magical of the world, be it through spirit photography, UFO photography, cryptozoology, or even ‘thoughtography’. Through such ‘excessive’ investments, photography came to be used as an object of societal magical rituals – either explicitly, as in voodoo practices, healing and curing rituals, spiritualistic rituals, or occultism, or implicitly, in its everyday uses, such as family photography, documentation of the rites of passage, or post-mortem photography. 

We invite textual and visual contributions that explore both the magical nature of photography and its power of revealing the magic of the world from (but not limited to) the following perspectives: 

  • Photography and the inexplicable 
  • Revelatory power of photography – seeing the unseen 
  • Revelatory power of photography – excess, abundance, and world disclosure 
  • Ritualistic aspects of photography/Everyday rituals as contemporary magic 
  • Photography and religious practices, voodoo, shamanism 
  • Photography and fetishism/Photographs as fetishized commodities 
  • Photography, trickery and/as magic 
  • Spirit and medium photography 
  • Culturally specific magical usages of photography 
  • Magic in contemporary art photography 
  • Photography and authority figures (saints, martyrs, and political leaders) 
  • Apotropaic uses of photography 
  • Phantasmagoria and photography 
  • Photography and the re-enchantment of modernity 
  • Photography, magic, and virtual reality 
  • Photography, magic, and feminism 
  • Photography, magic, and ecology 
  • Photography, vibrant matter, and other new materialisms 
  • Photography, spiritualism, and cosmology 
  • Photography – magic, art or science? 

Contributions will be published in the English edition – magazine Membrana (ISSN 2463-8501) as well as in the Slovenian edition – magazine Fotografija (ISSN 1408-3566). 

Proposals and deadlines

Please contact the editors at The deadline for contribution proposals (150-word abstracts and/or visuals) is December 16, 2019. The deadline for finished contributions from accepted proposals is March 16, 2020.