“John Brill’s faux spirit-photographs are enough to make you believe in ghosts, extraterrestrials and visitations of all kinds. Mr. Brill, who is 49 and is having his third solo show at Kent, is a consummate manipulator of the photographic process, a wizard of the darkroom. Starting out with normal photographs of family and friends (and, it seems, the occasional household pet), he comes up with images that are anything but. He works primarily with selenium- or sulfide-toned silver prints.
“The figures and faces, shining orbs and dark silhouettes, phantasms and nebulae that drift through the smoky atmospheres of these images evoke all kinds of encounters, many of them on the creepy side. They include unhappy spirits, amorphous apparitions, unearthed skeletons or mummies from the nearest crypt, evidence of long-ago crimes, ethnographic photographs of shamanistic rites or powerful amulets, surveillance photographs, even U.F.O.’s. The associations are helped by titles like ”Emanations,” ”Trance” and ”Childhood Dreams.”
“If all this sounds a little melodramatic, it is. It helps that one can sometimes make out the laughing relative or family portrait that was the photograph’s original subject. Still, these images are often touchingly beautiful. They remind us that because photographs can render the most exact truths, they can also tell the biggest lies. They put one in touch with the intermittent need to believe that, one way or another, we are not alone. ROBERTA SMITH .” text by Roberta Smith. Published: April 14, 2000 in the NYT.