Capturing Kirlian Photography and Electromagnetic Fields

Avatar michelle estevez | January 20, 2019

Kirlian photography is a technique that captures the energy flow of both living and non-living objects—otherwise known as a coronal discharge. When we hear corona, we might think of the plasma that surrounds the sun and is most commonly seen in photos of a total solar eclipse. It’s an interesting perspective as to the relationship of all objects having their own corona—although not instantly visible through naked means—beings are indeed made up of star stuff. This photographic technique captures the energetic field objects emit. Scientists refer to this as the radiation of electromagnetic energy. Other references to this are known as the aura, qi, etc… Capturing energy through Kirlian photography has intrigued scientists worldwide while continuing to inspire artists alike.

How Kirlian Photography Works:

Kirlian photography produces imaginative images that we wouldn’t necessarily see with the naked eye. Electrical engineer, Semyon Davidovitch Kirlian actually stumbled upon it by accident in 1939. After witnessing a hospital patient receive medical treatment from a high-frequency electrical generator, he noticed the way electrodes would glow when brought near the patient’s skin. Inspiration immediately struck as Semyon and his wife, Valentina began to experiment how to best tap into this energy and capture it through photography.

The Kirlian’s attached conductors to leaves and plants, placing them on photographic film and a metal conducting plate. Ultimately, the voltage traveled through water molecules in an organism, thus exposing its coronal discharge. Upon his discovery, Kirlian believed he was accessing the life force found within all beings. He thought this would be a great tool in uncovering energetic ailments to combat illnesses. The couple kept this private and didn’t publicly release their findings until the late 1950s. Popularity surrounding this phenomenon grew during the 70s.

Kirlian Photography of Hand

Throughout his career, Kirlian developed a strong reputation in the electrical engineering field with Tesla being one of his predecessors. Kirlian was often called upon to fix mishaps in various laboratories throughout Russia. Although he was not the first to discover the electromagnetic effects emitted from different objects, he was the first to experiment and capture it photographically. As a result, the rest of the science community quickly began to take notice.

American scientists flew to Russia to learn more about this photographic phenomenon and its applications. There were (and still are) many clashes within the scientific community with claims stating this approach is a myth or pseudoscience. What Kirlian believed to be a mystical occurrence, others identified as nothing of particular interest. However, scientists did acknowledge the movement of energy traveling through water molecules in photographed images even if they weren’t as enthusiastic about is as Kirlian.

Torn Leaf Experiment (Phantom Leaf):

Kirlian Photography of Leaf

In one of his photography sessions, Kirlian captured the electromagnetic field of a leaf. He believed his photography related to the life force essence—what can also be known as the aura, qi, etc., While there are many scientific studies that argue against Kirlian’s beliefs, curiousity propelled him to cut a piece of the leaf off to see what would happen. To his surprise, the leaf continued to emit it’s light at a dwindling rate. Essentially, the coronal discharge (or qi) was escaping the leaf.

A study done at Vanderbilt University looked at the Kirlian photography approach to better understand those who have had out of body and near death experiences. In an attempt to capture nerve endings from amputees who claimed they felt pain 20 years later it was found that “under certain conditions, a photographable phantom effect may exist in humans as well as in plants.” The study continues by looking at various theories relating to energies being independent and seperating from the body during an OBE or NDE.

While claims lie on both sides of the equation,  the techniques of Kirlian photography have shed valuable insights in expanding our field of vision, peaking curiosity, providing insights for research and are practiced by many artists to this day. Aura, qi, electromagnetic energy or all of the above, we are beings of light and there is a lot to appreciate in the beauty of this art.  



Written by michelle estevez