The Energy Issue

The Energy Issue is a Columbia University GSAPP initiative to make energy a cultural issue, launched in partnership with Oldcastle Building Envelope®.

Kirlian Photography: Revealing Nature’s Electrical Aura

Kirlian Photography: Revealing Nature’s Electrical Aura

 

Kirlian photography is the term used to describe the techniques used to capture the phenomenon of electrical coronal discharges. It is named after Semyon Kirlian, a Russian electrical engineer, and his wife Valentina, who in 1939 discovered that if an object on a photographic plate is connected to a high-voltage source, an image is produced on the photographic plate. 

From "Kirlian Imaging Reel," YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze9I3L4vrE

From “Kirlian Imaging Reel,” YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze9I3L4vrE

The Kirlians developed the technique after observing a patient in Krasnodar hospital who was receiving medical treatment from a high-frequency electrical generator. When the electrodes were brought near the patient’s skin, they noticed a glow similar to that of a Neon Discharge Tube. Afterwards, the Kirlians conducted experiments in which photographic film was placed on top of a conducting plate, and another conductor was attached to the a hand, a leaf or other plant material. The conductors were energized by a high frequency high voltage power source, producing photographic images typically showing a silhouette of the object surrounded by an aura of light. 

From "Kirlian Imaging Reel," YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze9I3L4vrE

From “Kirlian Imaging Reel,” YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze9I3L4vrE

Though the Kirlians reported the results of their experiments in 1958, their work remained virtually unknown until 1970, when two Americans, Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander published a book, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain. While Kirlian photography has been the subject of mainstream scientific research, it has largely been co-opted by promoters of pseudoscience, parapsychology, and paranormal health claims. In many ways, the technique has effected greater mass influence because of these associations, and speaks to the ways “energy-culture” enters popular thought. 

From "Kirlian Imaging Reel," YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze9I3L4vrE

From “Kirlian Imaging Reel,” YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nze9I3L4vrE