I photographed a ghost.
Even stranger, I did a couples session of a live woman who is married to this ghost.
And even stranger still, the ghost is a dead Haitan pirate from 300 years ago.
The Ghostly Husband
The ghost’s name is Jack Teague which has called some people to say that Amanda Sparrow Large Teague is making this ghost up from the character Johnny Depp played in Pirates of the Carribean. Amanda was a Johnny Depp pirate impersonator before she met this ghost, but she says she’s fully aware that the Pirates of the Caribbean is a fictional story and that she believes it was her interest in this chapter of history that attracted the ghost Jack to her in the first place.
Setting up the shoot in Belfast, Ireland
I flew to Dublin from California and took the train to Belfast, Northern Ireland amidst unseasonably warm Irish weather. There were dramatic clouds in the sky, but no rain and not even a need for a sweater (or should I say jumper).
Amanda had recently gone through surgery and so she didn’t feel up to traveling far. Amazing sites like Dun Luce Castle or the Giant’s Causeway were off the list of backdrops. After some research I found this amazing little park in Belfast called Hazelbank Park. It had an amazing combination of forested area and beach. I thought that was perfect for this ghostly couple’s shoot and I was so happy when I arrived.
Meeting the ghost’s wife
I was surprised when a blond got out of the taxi at the park. Amanda was wearing a bright blond wig instead of her normal dark brown hair. She told me that she wanted to portray witches in a different light that they could be blond instead of brunettes.
We sat down to talk, Amanda and myself and two friends whom I’d recently met in Belfast visiting for Pride Week. I admit I was a little scared of doing this photo session so when they offered to accompany me, I jumped for it. Plus it’s nice to have someone hold your camera equipment haha.
Our first chat and learning about the ghost husband
Amanda told us all sorts of fascinating things about her relationship with Jack the pirate ghost husband. Some of them a little scary. She said there are good spirits as well as bad ones that you don’t want to get mixed up with and that you needed to test spirits before you interact with them. I wondered what I was getting myself mixed up with.
As weird as it was, if Amanda had been talking about any other subject, I would have thought she was perfectly sane. I actually have a doctorate in marital and family therapy and there was nothing about amanda that said ‘crazy.’ That doesn’t necessarily mean that she is really married to a ghost, but I found her rationality particularly interesting (and relieving).
After talking for probably a good hour about their relationship, I suggested we take some pictures.
Posing a ghost and his wife
To be honest, I have been so nervous over this shoot that I could barely sleep the night before. I’ve been researching couples poses and trying to figure out how to shoot them when the husband is invisible! To make it even worse, Amanda said that she can’t see Jack and he isn’t really there in a body form. He’s an energy that she senses.
There went all my ideas out the window.
Just wanted to do a normal couple’s shoot
I wanted to make sure this was a real couple’s shoot. I wasn’t trying to stage something that highlighted the ghost part of it in a sensational way. I could have just said things like pretend that you have your arm around him, pretend that he’s kissing your cheek etc., but that wasn’t how she said the relationship worked.
According to Amanda, Jack isn’t a physical being. She can neither see him nor feel him as you would a regular human being. He is just energy, a force or a feeling. He doesn’t have eyes for her to gaze into or a waist she can put her arm around. This made it really difficult for me to think of how to make a connection between the two of them. Also whenever I would tell her to try to connect with him, she became very internal, closed her eyes trying to feel him.
At times it seemed simple for her to connect with him. He would say things to her, like evidently he didn’t like the blond wig she had on. Sometimes it seemed like they were bantering. Sometimes she would have small quiet conversations about how he was going to stand. Other times it seemed like he wasn’t there at all.
To say it was difficult to pose them would be an understatement.
But overall, I wanted this to be a normal experience. I wanted her (and him) to have a couple’s session like I would do with any other lovers on the earthly realm.
At the end of the day, I think I captured some good photographs that really tell an interesting story. To me, the photos seem sad and wistful. They really changed my perception of Amanda and I have become hesitant to post this as the crazy and sensational story that I was first expecting to do. Amanda is a real person and she has been through a lot in her life and it pains me to think that so many people are going to get a laugh at her through my photography.
When we went down to the beach to photograph, the beauty of the Irish Antrim coastline and the soft lapping of the waves called for a natural pause. We all sat and watched the water and the seagulls and just talked about life. Amanda told us of her children and her past relationships, of bullying and of losing her son.
Amanda talked of her experience as a witch and the girls accompanying me talked of their experience of being in a homosexual relationship. At one point, Amanda turned towards me and asked “Are you spiritual? What’s your story?” I had been quietly listening up to this point and hesitantly spoke up. “I’m a Christian.”
Everyone looked at me with shocked expressions and I shrugged. “Real christianity,” I said “is being able to love and respect others whether you agree with the way they live their life or not.” Jesus sat down with sinners (and tax collectors which let’s be honest is even worse) and shared a meal which I assume included laughter and conversation and life stories. I doubt very much that he sat down and frowned at them and told them everything they did wrong. I feel it’s my job to show love to others whether I agree with them or not.
Which is why I hope that you who are reading this can find it in your heart to respond with love rather than criticism and hilarity.
My goal for my photography is to show the heart of the person in the photos. Whether you believe Amanda is making this up or is crazy or is telling the truth, she is a real person with feelings and thoughts and a life story. Please enjoy her story and my photographs.