Kirlian photography

Kirlian photography

Kirlian photography refers to a form of photogram made with a high voltage. It is named after Semyon 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. [Julie McCarron-Benson in "Skeptical - a Handbook of Pseudoscience and the Paranormal", ed Donald Laycock, David Vernon, Colin Groves, Simon Brown, Imagecraft, Canberra, 1989, ISBN 0-7316-5794-2, p11]

Kirlian's work, from 1939 onward, 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.

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.

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 electrical field at the drier edges of the leaf. However, leaves that were partially cut off would continue to display the Kirlian outlines of the missing part for sometime. The Journal of the Smithsonian Institute published a leading article with reproductions of images of this phenomenon. According to James Randi's online An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural, "Since the same glass plates had been used, it is believed that moisture from the missing portion was providing the ghostly image." [James Randi's An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural [] ]


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. [Thelma Moss, "The Body Electric", New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher Inc., 1979.]

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. [ Including "Human Energy Field: study with GDV bioelectrography" 2002, NY, Backbone Publishing Co. and "Light After Life: Experiments and Ideas on After-Death Changes of Kirlian Pictures" 1998, NY, Backbone Publishing Co.] 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 preventative 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). [See Russian certificates [] , and European certificate [] . (The European certificate may be purchased at Berlin CERT [] with no formal requirements of actual testing.]

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. [cite journal|author=David G. Boyers and William A. Tiller|title=Corona discharge photography|journal=Journal of Applied Physics|volume=44|pages=3102–3112|date=1973|doi=10.1063/1.1662715]

"Aura" without a camera

Kirlian photography is completely different from "Aura photography," in which a colorful image is produced of a person's face and upper torso by interpreting galvanic skin responses and adding color to the photograph using a printer . The images made with an Aura camera do not result from coronal discharge. In Aura Photography, no high voltage is involved as with the Kirlian technique, and no direct contact with the film is made.

In popular culture

*A picture showing a hand with an ancient Indian medal is the cover of George Harrison's album Living in the Material World.
*A picture resembling a hand print in the title sequence of the U.S. science fiction TV series "The X-Files".
*The concert programme from David Bowie's 1976 Station to Station tour featured some results of the technique, and in 1975 Bowie claimed to have achieved markedly different results, using his fingertip and his crucifix, before and after he took cocaine.
*Science fiction author Piers Anthony wrote a series of five books ("Cluster", "Chaining the Lady", "Kirlian Quest", "Thousandstar" and "Viscous Circle") based around the premise of Kirlian transfer, the idea that a person's identity resides in his or her Kirlian aura and can be transferred to a host, in effect transferring the individual into another body. The host must be a sapient being (i.e. non-beast) but may be of the same or different species and may be many light-years away, thus allowing the main character to traverse galaxies at will and "be" a variety of aliens during the course of a single book.
*The first track of the album "MIX-UP" (1979) by the British band Cabaret Voltaire is named "Kirlian Photograph".
*In the movie Omen IV, Delia's babysitter, Jo, takes Delia to a psychic carnival where she and Delia had their picture taken with a Kirlian camera. The picture came out with Delia's dark and evil aura overtaking Jo's lighter, greenish aura.
*Benn Jordan's eighth album is titled "Kirlian Selections", in reference to his electric-influenced music style.
*In the comic book The Authority, team member Apollo is said to have a "Kirlian aura."
*Kirlia, a species of psychic-type Pokémon, is named after Semyon Kirlian.
*In the World of Darkness book "Project Twilight", Kirlian photography is one of the methods available to government vampire hunters to detect ghosts, spirits and auras.
*The electronic darkwave band Kirlian Camera take their name from this phenomenon.
*In the 1989 film Ghostbusters II, Drs Stantz and Spengler note multi-planear "Kirlian emanations" on pictures of a haunted painting in the Manhattan Museum of Art.
* In the X-Files episode "Leonard Betts" from Season 4, Kirlian photography of a slice of a head is used to make an image of the "aura" of the head's missing body.
* In Michael Scott's bestselling novel The Alchemyst, the protagonist, Nicholas Flamel, notes that the aura has been photographed by the Kirlians.

ee also

*Walter Kilner


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kirlian photography — [kir′lē ən] n. [after S. Kirlian, its Soviet developer (1939)] a method of capturing on a photographic plate an image of what is thought by some to be an aura of energy that emanates from animals and plants and that undergoes changes in… …   English World dictionary

  • Kirlian photography — noun Etymology: Semiticën D. Kirlian died 1978 and Valentina Kh. Kirlian died 1971 Soviet inventors Date: 1972 a process in which an image is obtained by application of a high frequency electric field to an object so that it radiates a… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • kirlian photography — ˌki(ə)rlēən noun Usage: usually capitalized K Etymology: after Semiticën D. Kirlian died 1978 and Valentina Kh. Kirlian died 1971 Soviet inventors : a process in which an image is obtained by application of a high frequency electrical field to an …   Useful english dictionary

  • Kirlian photography — Kir·li·an pho·tog·ra·phy (kērґle ən) [Semyon Kirlian, Russian electrician, 20th century, and Valentina Kirliana, Russian journalist, 20th century] see under photography …   Medical dictionary

  • Kirlian photography — /kear lee euhn/ a photographic process that supposedly records electrical discharges naturally emanating from living objects, producing an auralike glow surrounding the object on a photographic plate or film with which the object is in direct… …   Universalium

  • Kirlian photography — [ kə:lɪən] noun a technique for recording images of corona discharges and hence, supposedly, the auras of living creatures. Origin 1970s: from the name of the Russian electricians Semyon D. and Valentina K. Kirlian …   English new terms dictionary

  • Kirlian photography — Kir′li•an photog′raphy [[t]ˈkɪər li ən[/t]] n. pht a photographic process that purportedly records electrical discharges naturally emanating from living objects in the form of an auralike glow • Etymology: 1970–75; after Semyon D. and Valentina K …   From formal English to slang

  • Kirlian photography — a photographic technique in which a high voltage current passed over a subject in contact with photographic film or paper produces an image surrounded by a luminous radiation, or aura, which some claim is a bioenergetic field that can reveal… …   Medical dictionary

  • Photography — is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light sensitive material such as photographic… …   Wikipedia

  • Kirlian Camera — can mean:*a device used for Kirlian photography *the electronic darkwave band Kirlian Camera …   Wikipedia

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