Episode 28 – I Have Seen My Death

On this week’s spookyish show… we’re talking about x-ray film and x-rays in general, really. What are they? How’d all that happen and what’s with x-ray film? We’ll talk about cameras stealing souls, and also talk to Montana photographer Leland Buck (@leland.buck on IG).

After we field some messages concerning the emulsion our listeners would like to see brought back from the dead, we get into it.

The ‘Stealing Your Soul’ Myth

We were kicking around spooky ideas for a spooky Halloween episode. So what we came up with was this idea that some cultures are afraid of having their picture taken because they supposedly believe that the camera will steal their soul.

It seems like so many stories told by photographers of their times among the Native Americans or indigenous Africans are capped off with the subjects refusing to be photographed. The reason, which most of us accepted as fact, was that these strange and superstitious people actually believed that the camera could steal their soul.

But this got us wondering… did anyone actually believe this? We did some digging.

Hey, Leland!

Leland Buck is a Montana photographer who shoots x-ray film. But we didn’t just talk to him about that. We covered Montana, various emulsions and shooting styles, as well as a ton of tips for shooting X-ray film.

Here are a few of x-ray images Leland took:

More can be seen here.

The History of X-ray Photography

We’ve always kicked around the idea of shooting on x-ray film, but after trying, we couldn’t resist learning more about it.

1895 found German physicist,  Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen,  in his laboratory experimenting with vacuum tubes. He didn’t exactly have a specific theory he was chasing. He was merely seeing what adding different variables to the already established science might produce.

This brings us to the “first” x-ray photograph. According to biographer Otto Glasser, the event went like this:

Röntgen “conceived another experiment for which one evening he persuaded Mrs. Rontgen to be the subject. At his instruction she placed her hand on a cassette loaded with a photographic plate, upon which he directed the rays from his tube for fifteen minutes. On the developed plate the bones of the hand appeared light within the darker shadow of the surrounding flesh, two rings on her finger had almost completely stopped the rays and were clearly visible. When he showed the picture to her, she could hardly believe that this bony hand was her own and shuddered at the thought that she was seeing her skeleton. To Mrs. Rontgen, as to many others later, this experience gave a vague premonition of death.”

Legend has tacked on an ending where Mrs. Röntgen saw the image of her boney hand and exclaimed “I have seen my death!” and fled the lab never to enter it again.

This little ending is probably apocryphal, but it makes for a good title, so we had to include it.

Here are some early x-ray shots – some by Röntgen, most by others.

There were poems and cartoons written and drawn about the dangers of x-ray photography – though these dangers weren’t what we know them to be now.

Here are two shots on x-ray film by Vania:

And here are two shots on x-ray film by Eric:

Next Dev Party!

On our next Dev Party, we’ll be developing X-ray film!

Patreon Shout Outs

Thank you to everyone who supports us!

Check out our Patreon for bonus episodes, extended interviews, early drops. Tons of stuff!


Jason Conklin
Lori Brooks
Jack Johnson
Suzanne Lopez
Toni Skokovic
Ben Webster
Cliff Baldwin
The Reverend Dwanye’
Leland Buck
Bob DeHoff
Alan Mills
Mike Crawford
Matthew Stubbs
Ken Bertram
Janet Devereaux-Gaffney
Ryan Barker
LIz Potter
Michelle Singletary
Ralph Brandi
Martín Ventura
Colin Cameron
Jaya Bhat
Alex Purcell
Steve Tester
Alex Morrison
Adam Roberts
Tim Anderson
Dan Tree
Or sachs
Kate Miller-Wilson
Jonathan Feng
Juliet Schwab
Michael Dales
Robert Burton
Abel Silva
Kikie Wilkins
Alan Joseph Marx
Dave Walker
James Huffstutler
Jamie Maldonado
Nick Gaylord

This episode, our featured patron is James Huffstutler! He’s @allingrain on Instagram.


End Credits

Music by Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers

Vania: IGFlickrZines
Eric: IGFlickrZinesECN-2 Kits

All Through a Lens: IGWebsitePatreon

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