Kirlian Photography is a method of photography that uses high voltage directly applied to the subject. The film records the corona discharge around the subject. Typical voltages used range from 20,000 volts to over 40,000. While this might seem dangerous, the frequencies involved are much higher than household current, so the electricity only flows on the surface of the object being photographed. The glass plate used also reduces the total current flow to a level that allows a person to be photographed without a painful shock.
The illustration above shows how my photographs were made. A sheet of copper is overlaid with a sheet of glass. Color slide film was then placed on the glass, the subject was then placed on the film, a ground wire attached, and high voltage applied to take the photo. The process was difficult, since slide film can only be handled in total darkness and the slide film is cut into pieces so it can no longer be sent out for development. I had to load the individual pieces into a developing tank and process them myself.
I have images of fingertips, coins, and leaves. These are popular subjects for Kirlian Photography for a few reasons. First of all, they fit on the slide film. To image an entire person would take a person-sized piece of film and more power than most people would hold still for! Coins are good subjects because they show fine detail and are repeatable. Not being alive, they pretty much show the same result time after time. The image of the quarter will come out the same way every time. The only time you get color variation on coins is if you ground them with your finger instead of a ground wire. Living subjects are another matter entirely. Varying moisture levels and conductance of living things can make the results vary widely. For reasons I haven't been able to figure out, living subjects tend to get red and pink discharges along with blue. One famous experiment had a leaf photographed whole, then cut in half, and the result showed a faint outline of the whole thing. This was assumed to be related to the "aura" around living things, but was later determined to be the result of moisture on the glass plate from the leaf. To this day some people still think of Kirlian Photography as a "mystical process" or something from the X-Files. In reality it follows the same basic physics that allow a Xerox machine to function or cause Saint Elmo's Fire on ships and airplanes, with the added fun of sensitivity to the state of living things akin to the best polygraphs.
|From left to right, a quarter showing uniform blue corona discharge, a fingertip
with the varied colors and patterns only seen on
living things, a finger and a coin showing a high voltage arc between them, and
a 100% crop of a coin to show the level of detail.
|From left to right, a leaf with a cut on the left side, two fingertips, one
fingertip, and a leaf.
|From left to right, one fingertip, a leaf, a quarter grounded by a person's
finger on the back, and a fingertip next to a nickel.