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The result of an accidental discovery made in a Russian laboratory in 1939, Kirlian photography creates images of what appears to be a field of energy produced by the body. This field is said to vary according to physical and emotional states. Practitioners believe that a bright, regular pattern is a sign of a healthy, well-balanced individual, and that disturbances herald to onset of illness. The technique is mostly practiced in Russia and Eastern Europe, often in conjunction with therapies based on the existence of an "energy-force," such as acupuncture and homeopathy. There is also some interest in the US and UK.
Kirlian photography refers to a form of photogram made with a high voltage. It is named after Semyon Kirlian, a Russian engineer, and his wife Valentina. Kirlian, who in 1939 accidentally discovered that if an object on a photographic plate is connected to a source of high voltage, small corona discharges (created by the strong electric field at the edges of the object) create an image on the photographic plate.
While repairing an electrotherapy machine, used in the treatment of paralysis, Semyon Kirlian noticed a weak, luminous glow between his hand and the part of the machine responsible for conducting electricity. A photograph of the phenomenon, printed on light-sensitive paper, revealed streams of light coming from his fingertips.
Kirlian's work, from 1939 onward for the next 40 years, was spent investigating what they called "electro-bio" photography. He was involved an independent rediscovery of a phenomenon and technique variously called "electrography", "electrophotography", and "corona discharge photography". The Kirlian technique is contact photography, in which the subject is in direct contact with a film placed upon a metal plate charged with high voltage, high frequency electricity. By the 1960s their work had sparked publicity in Russia, with some researchers claiming that the method could diagnose disease. In the 1970s, interest in Kirlian photography spread to the West, and US and UK practitioners began to research its diagnostic potential.
The underlying physics (which makes xerographic copying possible) was explored as early as 1777 by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (see Lichtenberg figures). Later workers in the field included Nikola Tesla; various other individuals explored the effect in the later 19th and early 20th centuries.
A Kirlian photograph of a healthy leaf shows a clear, bright field.
Kirlian made controversial claims that the image he was studying might be compared with the human aura. An experiment advanced as evidence of energy fields generated by living entities involves taking Kirlian contact photographs of a picked leaf at set periods, its gradual withering being said to correspond with a decline in the strength of the aura. However it may simply be that the leaf loses moisture and becomes less electrically conductive, causing a gradual weakening of the electric field at the drier edges of the leaf. In some experiments, if a section of a leaf was torn away after the first photograph, a faint image of the missing section would remain when a second photograph was taken. The Archives of American Art Journal of the Smithsonian Institution published a leading article with reproductions of images of this phenomenon. James Randi has suggested that this effect was due to contamination of the glass plates, which were reused for both the "before" and "after" photographs.
CONSULTING A PRACTITIONER
Faint electromagnetic fields surround all living and inanimate things. Kirlian photography is said to work by bringing the body's electromagnetic field into contact with a high-voltage, high-frequency electrical charge, and making an image of the resulting "interference pattern." The visible field produced has been interpreted by some practitioners as the "aura," or bands of colored light, that healers and other people gifted with psychic ability claim to be able to see around people.
Some practitioners work with the feet, but most take photographs of your hand, which you can place on a sheet of photographic paper or film laid on a piece of protective glass over an aluminum plate. Exposure lasts for one minute, during which time the plate is charged with electricity, causing a tingling sensation in your hand. This photograph is usually developed immediately.
TAKING A KIRLIAN PHOTOGRAPH
The hand is placed on a sheet of plastic-covered photographic paper on top of an aluminum plate linked to a power unit known as a Tesla coil.
Diagnosis is based on comparisons with other Kirlian photographs and on the practitioners own intuition. Depending on its shape and brightness, the field is said to indicate emotional or physical states, including stress levels; the presence of drugs in the body; and stages of the menstrual cycle. Some photographs seem to show depletions of energy around the acupoints in patients in poor health, and enhanced energy after acupuncture. This has been seen by some as support for Traditional Chinese Medicine's theory of qi (ki), or "life energy."
The field of a healthy hand (right photo) has a bright, regular pattern. A thin, patchy field (left photo) is said to signify potential health problems.
According to the diagnosis, the practitioner will refer you to a health care provider or complimentary therapist.
EVIDENCE & RESEARCH
A number of observations are often quoted in support of Kirlian photography; for example, the increased radiance seen in the fields of people practicing yoga, relaxation, or meditation. However, there has been little attempt to place the technique in a scientific context, despite the thousands of photographs that have been taken. Furthermore, factors such as the pressure of the hand on the plate, the subjects body temperature, environmental conditions, and the voltage and frequency of the electrical charge have all been shown to distort the pattern. Skeptics say they may even account for it.
In addition to living material, inanimate objects such as coins will also produce images on the film in a Kirlian photograph setup. In the United States, Dr. Thelma Moss of UCLA devoted much time and energy to the study of Kirlian photography when she led the parapsychology laboratory there in the 1970s. Much of her time was devoted to efforts to avoid factors proposed by skeptical peer-review.
Also, in the 1970s psychologist Joe H. Slate Ph.D. led research at Athens State University under the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command as project, "Kirlian Photography" (Featured in the History Channel's Vampire Secrets).
Current research continues by Dr. Konstantin Korotkov in the Russian University, St. Petersburg State Technical University of Informational Technologies, Mechanics and Optics. Dr. Korotkov has published several books. He uses GDV (Gas Discharge Visualization) based on the Kirlian Effect. GDV instruments use glass electrodes to create a pulsed electrical field excitation (called "perturbation technique") to measure electro-photonic glow.
The Korotkov methods are used in some hospitals and athletic training programs in Russia and elsewhere as preventive measurements for detecting stress. The Russian Academy of Science has approved the GDV techniques and equipment in 1999 for general clinical use, though it should be noted that the "approval", according to the certificates Dr. Korotkov himself is showing in his various web sites, only covers conformity with general electrical safety (standards 61010 and 61326).
There has been some published research in peer-reviewed scientific journals regarding GDV and related material, including several articles in the Journal of Applied Physics and in IEEE articles.
The accepted physical explanation is that the images produced are those typically caused by a high voltage corona effect, similar to those seen from other high voltage sources such as the Van de Graaff generator or Tesla coil. In a darkened room, this is visible as a faint glow but, because of the high voltages, the film is affected in a slightly different way from the usual. Color photographic film is calibrated to faithfully produce colors when exposed to normal light. The corona discharge has a somewhat different effect on the different layers of dye used to accomplish this result, resulting in various colors depending on the local intensity of the discharge.
CONVENTIONAL MEDICAL OPINION
If Kirlian photography were as effective as a diagnostic tool as it is claimed to be, it would have immense benefits, and might be expected to have been adopted by conventional medicine. Health care providers maintain that this has not happened because it is an unreliable technique, unsubstantiated by medical research, and certainly not a substitute for blood tests or X-rays.
KIRLIAN PHOTOGRAPHY - COMPARISON WITH AURA PHOTOGRAPHY
"Aura Cameras are used to give individuals a visual representation their bio energetic state. Based on such biofeedback technologies and Galvanic Skin Response and Skin Temperature, Aura Cameras can measure these physiological inputs and then convert this information into digital displays through a computer interface. The resulting display is typically a depiction of what is traditionally known as the human aura and chakra."
Having said that, there are two ways of trying to capture an aura photography:
- Biofeedback Aura Photographing: This is a colorful image that is digitally produced of a person's face and upper torso by interpreting galvanic skin responses from their hand (previously placed on a sensor plate) and then by adding color to the photograph using a printer. They are commercialized as "aura photos", are made with the so called "Aura Camera" but do not result from coronal discharge, they are mostly made by a camera, a handplate and the software all manufactured by one manufacturer, Progen.
Biofeedback aura photographing is not a Kirlian effect photo:
"These aura cameras measure the galvanic skin resistances from the subjects hand. A computer uses that skin resistance information to produce and colorize an aura around the subject on a monitor. A copy of the monitor image is printed and sold to the customer. Is this Kirlian photography? No it is not. Many people are making the erroneous connection to Kirlian photography since the corona discharge photographed around the subject in the Kirlian photograph is many times referred to as an aura. Kirlian photography is a photograph of a high voltage corona discharge around the subject."
- Gas Discharge Visualization (GDV): The other method of "aura photographing" is the GVD technique, also called bio-electrography photo, which is based on the kirlian effect, where high voltage is involved and there is direct contact with the film plate is made. Kirlian effect photos are electro-photonic images around various objects or humans which some people interpret as a photo of the aura. The photos taken with the GVD technique have been studied for over 10 years and have been shown to reflect the integrity of body, mind and soul in interaction with the environment, results of integral research of human psychophysical and energy state. These photographs are being used for innumerous purposes: for discovering ways to better preserve foods, for discovering cracks in minerals, for diagnosing diseases in humans, etc.
Whether or not these two kinds of photographs can really be considered photos of the "aura" per se is still highly debatable and still subject to on-going study.
Kirlian Photography: Building Your Own Equipment
Kirlian.org: Kirlian Cameras
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