Musings on Photography

Ghost Light

Posted in Solo Photo Book Month, whimsy by Paul Butzi on June 10, 2009


I’m certain that your theatre images would capture me and make me forget time; the pictures I have seen here have that power. Like the one in this post makes me thinking what’s going on. What is it and who put it there, and so on. I love it!

The subject of the photo in that post (and the photo in this one) is a ‘ghost light’ – a light that’s left on stage when a theatre is “dark” (that is, not currently being used). There are a slew of explanations of why ghost lights are left on 24/7, ranging from pedestrian (having the stage lighted, even if just by the one light, prevents accidents if someone happens to blunder onstage in the dark) to superstitious (the light is there to keep ghosts from taking up residence, or ghosts from performing plays, or the characters from past performances from returning to life on the stage, etc.) Most ghost lights are like this one – spartan and functional. This one was set upstage center, but it’s probably more traditional to set them further downstage, especially for proscenium theaters where there’s a drop off the edge of the stage.

One of the things Bill and I found in our adventures photographing in empty theatres is that the presence of the ghost light has a big impact on the feel of the space. Only one of the theatres we’ve photographed didn’t have a ghost light set when we photographed it (the first one, it turns out). Our plans are to rephotograph that particular theatre, and I expect when we do that we’ll ask them to leave the ghost light onstage.

2 Responses

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  1. Ove said, on June 10, 2009 at 11:00 pm

    A ghost light! I didn’t know about those; they seem to serve their purpose in many dimensions.

  2. Bronislaus Janulis said, on June 11, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Now, that is a subject for a thesis, the history of the Ghost light. Theatre seems to have an unbroken tradition, going well earlier than Shakes the spear; painting seems intent on killing any tradition. curmudge, curmudge.

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