Simply Science: Kirlian photography

MINNEAPOLIS - A Minneapolis photographer is using science to create art. It's an image capturing method developed in 1939 Romania for medical diagnoses.

"There's a lot of mystery surrounding Kirlian photography," says photographer and science-minded Mark D. Roberts.

There are those who believe the aura or soul of a living thing could be captured in the electric process of Kirlian photography. Roberts is not one of those people.

"There's nothing mysterious about this. There's no, you know, it's all pretty easy to explain scientifically," he says with confidence.

When an object is set on a copper plate and grounded the level of electricity acts as the aperture. The time acts as the shutter speed.

"If there's a lot of moisture, you get a bigger footprint, a more dynamic footprint," Roberts says. "The trilogy image is a great example. The two images on either side have been picked. The image in the center is still potted. So you can see it's got more of an aura, more of a halo, if you will, because it's got more moisture, it's still alive. The other two are deteriorating."

When electricity follows the path of moisture through the object, in this case a leaf, it gives off a slight glow. In a completely dark room, it's that glow that reacts with the film to create the exposure. So what you're seeing is the path of electrons through the leaf, sometimes revealing characteristics unseen by the naked eye.

The artist in Roberts lets the leaf tell its own story.

"There's an infrastructure to that leaf that might have a lot of moisture to it. It really isn't visible, it's kind of there but you can't really see it. But because it has high-moisture content, when I photograph it, it's really going to come out. It's really going to be dramatic."

The Kirlian photography exhibit runs through Jan. 12 at theBakken Museum on West Calhoun Parkway. Roberts works out of his studio in The Ivy Arts Building, located in Minneapolis' Seward Neighborhood.


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