Meanwhile, in Russia, experimentation with components of radiographic devices gave rise to electrography, the basis of aura photography today. Scientist Jakob von Narkiewicz-Jodko believed that electricity was imperative to reveal a subject’s vital energies. His photographic process called for an induction coil, which he used to electrically charge a metal plate. When an object or body part was placed on photosensitive material atop the charged plate, the coronal discharge produced a glowing silhouette.
Decades later, in 1939, Semyon and Valentina Kirlian, a Russian electrical engineer and his biologist wife, independently discovered coronal discharge photography and dubbed it “Kirlian photography”—like Narkiewicz-Jodko, the Kirlians believed that these photos could provide telling psychic insights. At that time, color photography had become commercially viable, and the striking color spectrum of Kirlian photography played a role in its spread. The couple’s findings, which only became public in 1958, garnered attention in the West when the book Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain was published in 1970.
A century of efforts to photograph the aura resulted in a clunky camera devised in the New Age milieu of the 1970s by a Californian entrepreneur named Guy Coggins. Coggins, who has a background in electrical engineering and a LinkedIn endorsement for chakra balancing, first brought his AuraCam 3000 to market in the early 1980s, and later released the AuraCam 6000 (which is still used today by the likes of Radiant Human and Magic Jewelry). While Kirlian photography created contact prints, Coggins’s AuraCam adapted Kirlian methods to produce instant photographs, linking an instant-film camera to two charged metal plates containing biofeedback sensors.