Aura photography appears to be a fusion of the kitsch frivolities of New Age culture with a modern society that thrives on selfies. On a strip of film, the idea of fleshing out one’s energy fields — unseen halo-like radiation surrounding one’s body — has an appealing modern radiance.
As with other heavenly excursions making a comeback, its current adherents aren’t a cult-like group of people. Experimental millennials increasingly rely on mystical channels in their quest for comprehensive well-being.
Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexander Wang, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, and Joseph Altuzarra were among a group of well-known designers and personalities that had their auras taken and rated by Portland-based artist Christina Lonsdale, who has been dubbed the Annie Leibovitz of aura photographers.
Actress Zosia Mamet famously opted for Lonsdale’s aura-reading geodesic dome at her wedding instead of the typical photo booth. It’s no surprise that most of the multicolored results ended up on Instagram. This upsurge in interest in extrasensory perceptions was swiftly embraced by the public.
Is there more to aura reading than just another lovely picture to put on Instagram in the absence of solid scientific foundations?
I’ve never believed in superstitious nonsense, but I decided to give it a shot after learning about astrology and finding it fascinating. At Kang Li Mineral Kingdom, where Yi Xin, a 33-year-old aura reader, has been practicing spiritual healing since 1989, I made an appointment with Yi.
Two-story business Kang Li is located in Fu Lu Shou Complex’s center of spiritual practitioners. Its inside is lined with rows of wooden shelves and cupboards containing crystals, jades, minerals, and talismans. A small fountain concealed among other curiosities emits calming ripple sounds. The aura-reading camera is situated directly outside the store’s entrance. It looks like an old-fashioned camera that bursts into a cloud of smoke whenever it takes a picture.
“Our mental condition is represented by auras. Yi Xin explains that it is based on the seven chakras. According to legend, only a tiny percentage of the population is endowed with the natural ability to perceive them. And it wasn’t until the early 1970s that Guy Coggins constructed a camera that he claimed could detect and record the electromagnetic field surrounding the human body through two exposures. The first is a standard photograph of the object. The second, which is stacked on top of the first, uses hand sensors that practitioners believe convert the subject’s aura into the colors of the body’s electrical.
To assist me in relaxing after arriving at Kang Li, the staff directs me to sit in one of their wicker chairs and bring me a warm cup of mint tea in porcelain. Yi Xin directs me with a smile to move to the seat facing the camera whenever I’m ready and place my hands palm down on the sensors. Having done so, I look at the laminated sign attached to the camera’s base. A message on the screen tells me to “relax, breathe, and smile.” As a result, I comply. After that, I’m done, usually within ten or fifteen seconds.
To my surprise, Yi Xin directs me to a table. When she removes the film, I can see a picture of my aura. After that, you’re left with something that’s kind of like a surrealist picture, where the colors blend into one another in strange ways. There’s a faint indigo arc above my head, punctuated by three fading white specks. There is a gradual transition from a bright yellow to an encompassing deep red. On my right side, there is a single patch of greenery.
To avoid being labeled as anything, Yi Xin (who calls herself “a person who helps other humans”) has been studying auras for the better part of her whole adult life. Kang Li’s founders and owners are, in fact, her parents. Her entire life has been spent working in the occult. It doesn’t take Yi Xin much of a perusal of the five-page report in front of her before she launches into a rapid-fire assessment.
She sees the yellow core as a source of delight and wonder, while the red core is passionate and creative. “Your red fills the entire left-hand side of the block.” Everything you do is entirely autonomous. She explains, “It signifies that you’re really busy and that you take care of many things.” Afterward, she makes her way to the green zone with its distinct compartments. Your benefactor’s luck, however, has been severed. In other words, instead of relying on others for assistance, you choose to rely on yourself.”
In the future, I’ll go over the report. According to the text, “the color of your solar plexus is generally the center vibration of your existence.” My solar plexus is green-yellow, it concludes. According to this quote, you are in a “developing time” where your outlook and attitudes are changing. You’ve gained the confidence to embrace the fantastic “newness” that’s all around you with delight and hope.
Aquamarine on my right side reveals my emotional depth and compassion: “The combination of blue and green (or aquamarine) shows you are a person of tremendous depth and compassion. Likewise, aquamarine on your right side shows your emotional depth and compassion.” If you had the power, you’d use it to save the world. I’m reminded of the photograph of the aura. Yellow, green, and a dramatic violet color mix on my right side. There’s not even a whiff of aquamarine to be found.
I’d rather hear Yi Xin cheerfully dismantling my aura than read what could just be machine-generated templates on A4 white sheets. Even with a big spoonful of salt, listening to a complete stranger deconstruct your chakras can have a cathartic impact. Without the profound self-digging and costly fee, it’s almost like therapy.
According to Yi Xin, there isn’t much to criticize about this aura; it appears to be one of the better ones. Finally, she offers this advice: “You simply need to develop a great deal of positivity within yourself. Meditating can be helpful.” 15 minutes later, I can have a completely different picture taken. A person’s aura can shift at any moment.
What’s the use of photographing it if no one cares?
I just want to catch a peek at what it’s like. Aura assessments do not have to be repeated indefinitely. Yi Xin explains that it might be stressful to know too much about yourself. “Ignorance is bliss sometimes.” One photogenic rainbow of colors printed on an old-school Polaroid will do just fine when it comes to Instagram.