Love Goblins: They will Change your Life Forever

In This will change your life forever, there is no affection. It is an angry, sarcastic book based on Klaus Pichler’s experience of losing friends to esoteric cults. It’s personal and has a visual amazement at the jaw-dropping stupidity of how photography works in one particular field.

© Klaus Pichler, from the book This will change your life forever. 'Earth healing ritual to end the war in Syria'. Re-staging of an image found in an online forum.

This will change your life forever comes in a white box with blue text. It’s antiseptic in tone, cleansed of the harsh realities of life, but with toxic undertones. That effect continues when you get to the book, its hard cover coated in a silvery slick, the kind you’d find lining your tongue the morning after the night before.

The silvery slick seeps into the body of the book itself, a book that set out to uncover the lies and deceit of the world of the esoteric. Because that is what this book is about; the visual world of auras and visions, of angels and energies, and the economy that it has spawned (worth 28 billion euros in Germany in 2014).

It’s a book that has a subtext of the oddballs, dropouts, the vulnerable and the weak who are exploited by this economy, and the parasites and snake oil salesmen who are then to take them for every penny they’ve got.

© Klaus Pichler, from the book This will change your life forever. 'Orbs', white or coloured circles appearing on photos, interpreted to be manifestations of guardian angels, archangels, elementary beings or spirits of nature. Re-staging of popular photos found in online forums.

The first picture sets the scene; it’s a circle of white suited Pichlers - a Pichler-Henge if you like - hands outstretched, healing powers flowing between healing souls.

A booklet with extended captions (and they are great captions!) tells you that this is a restaging of an ‘earth-healing ritual (attendance fee 80 euros), for the peaceful ending of the war in Syria,’ something that one might regard as absurd and indicative of the use of a pseudo-spirituality to exploit the emotionally vulnerable and downright gullible and stupid.

Flick the page and there is a globe showing the lines of energy that form a ‘morphogenetic field’, there’s a ‘Tachyon Energy Button (an ordinary button but costing 26 euros) that promises positive ‘energy effects.’

© Klaus Pichler, from the book This will change your life forever. 'Esotericist seminar', showing one of the countless images of esotericist gatherings and seminars. Re-staging of images found in multiple internet forums, digital composite photo made in a hotel conference room.

Other products are shown, all bought from the internet and photographed in true esoteric style. There is love bombing, a Huge Real Love Goblin (which in true Spinal Tap tradition is 20cm high - but costs 79 euros), Spirit B.Gone Room Spray, and Hitler Water. The recipe is easy enough. Stick a label with Hitler on it and the water will NEVER freeze. Or something like that. I wonder what May, or Berlusconi or Trump water would do?

There are images that show staged events of esoteric happenings; the energies, auras and angels that form the visual foundation of the esoteric - and be warned, there might be some digital chicanery going on in these pictures. Steer clear of this book if you’re only up for World Press Photo standards on manipulation. Pichler recreates these images and in doing so provides a visual guide to spiritual photography. Laser pointers, flash, lens aberrations, overexposure, underexposure, cigarette smoke, long exposures, torchlight, digital mirroring, reflecting foil and lens smeared with haemorrhoid cream are just some of the strategies used to create real-life images of the spirit world, of the world we cannot see. It’s crude stuff and Pichler tinges it all with both humour and contempt.

© Klaus Pichler, from the book This will change your life forever. 'Unicorns': Visualisation of the second most popular image category on esotericist online sources: kitschy images showing illustrations of mysterious animals, entities or apparitions. Stock photos, digital collage.

In his previous books Pichler photographed worlds with a certain affection and playfulness. In This will change your life forever, there is no affection. It is an angry, sarcastic book based on Pichler’s experience of losing friends to esoteric cults. It’s personal and has a visual amazement at the jaw-dropping stupidity of how photography works in one particular field. But it’s also funny and in another sense it goes beyond the esoteric. It’s about how photography works in all fields, including those we believe ourselves to be visually literate in. Smoke and Mirrors? Isn’t that what all photography is about?

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Klaus Pichler is a fine art and documentary photographer based in Vienna, Austria. He is currently represented by Anzenberger Gallery.

Colin Pantall is a photographer, writer and lecturer based in Bath, England. His latest book, All Quiet on the Home Front, focuses on family, fatherhood and the landscape. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

PHM 2018 Women Photographers Grant
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