Clare Strand’s contribution to the Seeing is Believing Show (Photographers Gallery, London Nov 2007-Jan 2008), while paralleling other contemporary photographers’ interest in the visual vocabulary of Spiritualist photography, nevertheless also sets out to extend previous themes in her work. At the heart of Strand’s work there is a consistent and underlying process whereby utilitarian applications of photography are studied and researched in order to contextualise her chosen subject matter.

Unseen Agents, provides axes of possibilities between the nebulous and the sharply focused, the mysterious and the adamant, the credible and the impossible. At no time in the work does she lead the viewer to a resolution or a solution, but instead allows a generosity of response where all solutions are possible, to the enhancement of the narrative richness. At no stage does she denounce or substantiate, nor reveal her own experiences, always careful to skirt the autobiographical.

As part of Unseen Agents, the Photism series proposes the use of the high street, ‘Aura Camera’ found in ‘Spiritual Shops’ or Fairs, which purport to provide a detailed study of a subject’s character and energy. The laying of hands upon a metal sensor produces a small colour Polaroid that bears ‘witness’ to aura projection and ethereal entity. Strand terms this image a Photism (A luminous image or appearance of a hallucinatory character). Her subjects are young women, returning to her preoccupation (Seeing Red, 1998) with the adolescent girl and their supposed psychic potency and paranormal magnetism, so often documented in horror movies, paranormal literature and psychology.
It is important also to note that, in Strand’s work to date, there is a regular juxtaposition in each separate project of two seemingly disparate bodies of imagery such as in Gone Astray with Portraits and Details and The Betterment Rooms, Cyclegraphs and Untitled work studies. Hence the exhibition of the Photism and Kirlian series together.

In the Photism series there is a perverse sense of denial, achieved by stripping away the very colour of the original photographic document, so necessary to the decoding of Auras and Emanations, as extolled by the Theosophists and, even more recently, by New Age Psychodelics. In contradiction too, the small working Polaroid is promoted to contemporary Gallery status by its ambitious size and slick production.

In  Kirlian Studies Strand presents us with the Kirlian camera plate (invented by  Seymon Kirlian 1939 to detect metaphysical energy of the animate and inanimate). The contradiction presented to us is that there is no pictorial outcome,  just the witnessing of the process itself. Strand concentrates on the mechanisms of achieving the image, rather than the image itself. More precisely, the Kirlian apparatus is brought to bear on the characteristics of the female subjects in the Photisms (Hair, Tread, Touch, Breath).

With all Strand’s work there is a constant questioning of what photography is, where photography as a working mode has been used, and what photography is able to offer in pursuit of her chosen subject matter. In 2008, her show and a published monograph will provide a convergence point for separate skeins of her work. Here the forensic, the scientific, the declaratory, the evidential, the gratuitous and the oblique will cluster together in a newly configured dictionary of photographic possibilities.