Photographs in which people appear to be surrounded by a shimmering aura are more common than one would think. If the image is recent, we assume it is a Photoshop manipulation. However, if it was taken long before the digital era, more religious spirits are stirred, claiming it is evidence of the existence of a human aura, forgetting the fact that photographic effects have been around since the beginning of photography itself. In this case, the "aura" is produced by a simple effect called Kirlian.
This is an old phenomenon, named after Russian inventor Semyon Davidovich Kirlian, who made it famous in 1939. Its technical principles are simple. In a nutshell, it consists of applying a high voltage electric field near a photographic plate, which, as a result triggers the appearance of a radiating light surrounding the object being photographed. What is most baffling about it, is that, in spite of the phenomenon's alternate name bio-electrograph, it works for both living beings and innate objects, refuting theories that defend the existence of a human aura, that can be photographed. Mysticism aside, one this is for sure, the pictures produced using this process are amazing and never fail to speak to our more spiritual side.
The irony in this is that Kirlian, allegedly came across this process by accident, while carrying out experiments with electricity and could never actually find an immediate use for it, outside of mere scientific curiosity. However, although he takes credit for discovering it, his achievement was not pioneering. There are records available that show that, in the beginning of the 20th century, priest and inventor, Roberto Landell de Moura performed photographic experiments of this kind, in which he captured, for the first time, what was believed to be the human aura. Controversy ensued and he was forced by the Church to abandon his experiments. His life would make an interesting book...
The photographs shown here, produced using the Kirlian technique, were taken by American photographer Robert Buelteman.
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