Aura photography is an occult art form being raised from obscurity by two very different businesses in New York City. Invented in the 1930's by Russian electrical engineer, Semyon Kirlian, it is a process that visually captures the electromagnetic energy field given off by a person or an object. Until recently there was only one place in the entire city that photographed auras, a small storefront in the recesses of Chinatown called Magic Jewelry. Now, as the occult transcends its new age reputation, you can have your aura photographed at the hippest of hangs—most recently, at the Red Bull Studios in Chelsea. The Creators Project set out to explore both scenes.
At Magic Jewelry in Chinatown, auras are photographed then analyzed while you sip green tea and listen to traditional Chinese music. Their camera is an 18 year-old large metal box. Yellow tape holds the body together and it rests on a flimsy tripod facing a cushioned seat with metal sensors in the shape of handprints on either side. Photos of the camera itself are forbidden.
Capturing an aura takes several seconds to complete as the electric current from the body is fed to the camera, resulting in a colorful Polaroid where the person is largely obscured by their glowing aura. After adhering it to a paper frame with the inscription Magic Jewelry at the top, the employee analyzes the aura using the Chakra system chart as a reference.
The Chakra system is an ancient Hindu and Buddhist belief system that identifies different energy points throughout the body. Each point corresponds to an area of emotion, such as love, spirituality, wisdom, creative intelligence, etc. Energy is said to flow into the body through your left hand, extending up your left arm, over your head, down your right arm, and out of your right hand in a three-week cycle. The left arm represents your upcoming week, the section above the head represents the current week and the right arm denotes the prior week that you are leaving behind. The analysis at Magic Jewelry is an interpersonal journey wherein a complete stranger breaks down your strengths, vulnerabilities, future, present and past in less than 10 minutes.
Two miles north across a demographic divide, Radiant Human sets up shop at the Red Bull Studios in Chelsea for an artist's opening reception. There's a line of people waiting to enter a white, geometric dome to have their auras photographed by this contractor of the occult. Radiant Human is a traveling aura photography service that provides not only an atmosphere, but an irreverent take on the business of auras. Less of an interpersonal journey and more of an esoteric photo booth, Radiant Human is introducing aura photography into a pop culture realm. After your trip inside the dome you are given your photograph and a card that lists the various emotions tied to each color, essentially an updated version of the Chakra chart. For $25 they'll analyze your aura, otherwise it's up to you.
So whether you're seeking a transcendental reading or momentary amusement, aura photography offers a vibrant art object and a little enlightenment.
Learn more about Radiant Human here.