Photographs Steal Soulsby J-Mirabelli
Bernard F. Dick, in his book about Billy Wilder’s movies, has an interesting take on movies and photography: “Movie making is the transformation of living beings into dead images that are then given life by being projected on a screen. Movie going is watching dead images coming out of a projector, ordinarily at the rate of twenty-four frames per second. Since the stars have ‘died’ by giving up their image to celluloid, they can be immortal both in their lifetime and after their death.”
This quote alone is enough to keep a philosopher going forever about soul and life stealing through the lens of a camera, but this premise all started in ancient history long before movies and Hollywood.
The religious belief that a photograph can steal a soul, imprisoning it within its film, or a hard drive if it’s digital photography, is still shared by many cultures across the globe. Even today, some Native Americans and Aborigines of Australia, refuse to be photographed.
This belief evolved in different ways for many cultures, occasionally revolving around the beliefs in the power of mirrors. In folklore, mirrors have the power to steal souls. This is where the superstition of breaking a mirror causes bad luck stems from. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and many other cultures used reflective surfaces, such as mirrors to practice scrying, the ability to predict the future.
In Mayan culture and religion it was believed that mirrors opened portals into the Otherworld. In San Juan Chamula, Mexico some people still adhere to these old Mayan ways. It is illegal to take photographs in church. If you are caught using a camera in church, jail time is a distinct possibility. That is partly because older generation film cameras and today’s SLR and digital SLR cameras use mirrors.
Most of the people today allow their photograph to be taken, however infants are protected. It is still believed that photographing an infant could harm the soul, preventing its return to the body.