Introduction: Electrophotography

You may remember this forum topic. I was originally going to do Kirlian photos, as per Goodhart's suggestion, but I didn't have a big enough power supply. To make a decent Kirlian photograph on photo paper, you need at least 10,000V. I started building a 15,000V PSU from an old flyback transformer, but I didn't get it done in time, so I just played around with a 2,000V PSU and got these.

To create these images, I attached the HV lead of my power supply to a metal plate. The ground lead was untwisted and fanned out to create a wire brush. In the darkroom, I turned on the power supply, placed a piece of photo paper atop the plate (emulsion side up), and dragged the wire brush across the surface of the paper. This did not simply burn the paper; a blue glow was visible underneath the paper, and the paper remained completely blank until I developed it.

Since I was doing this in a darkroom with other people printing, I could not risk a flash firing, so I don't have any pictures of the process. I'll pose some when I get a chance.

Obligatory safety warning: Obviously, a high-voltage power supply is a bit dangerous. If you don't feel comfortable around high-voltage, don't try this, because you'll also be doing it under a dim darkroom safelight.

Edit 5-20-08: Oh, and I got 100% and "!!" on my assignment. It's a semester-long rubric sheet, and "!!" means way cool.

I have published this under a "Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike." This means that I am not claiming to have invented the technique. It does NOT mean that you can use my images without my permission. I spent a lot of time figuring these out. If you want a high-res version (these are 600 DPI scans), I'll upload them, but they will have watermarks.



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    When you "painted" with the wire brush, it was isolated from your finger, right? I am looking to do the same project, it's a really interesting topic of photography (although not really photography). My guess was that I had to place some electrical tape on the wire brush so I could hold it without receiving a discharge? Congratz, nice project!

    3 replies

    The wire from the power supply is insulated. Unless you're using a lot higher power than I have, you can simply hold the insulation.

    Actually, I would consider this to be more "true" photography than almost anything else. Photography comes from the French photographie, which, when broken apart into the Greek roots phos (light) and graphis (stylus or paintbrush), translating to drawing with light. In a normal photograph, you are simply focusing light. In this process, you are literally painting with a wire, which generates light.

    Wait, now that I think of it, have you seen any kirlian photos of living thing? I saw hand palms and finger close up of the authors of these photos. I don't think we need then to touch the live thing with the wire, otherwise electrical shocks and burns could occur, but I can't think of how it is working either.

    Indeed, you do have a very good point about the origin and real meaning of photography, thank you.

    I believe I might have seen this art work on display somewhere, but I am not sure.

    By the way...

    I have published this under a "Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike." This means that I am not claiming to have invented the technique. It does NOT mean that you can use my images without my permission.

    Actually, it does mean that anyone can use your images without your permission. In fact, this license gives everyone the permission to use your images (and text), as long as they credit you. If that is not the effect you have in mind, you should pick a different license...

    1 reply

    I wasn't too clear on that...What I meant was that even though it's published like that, I don't want people to take my work and use it without any credit given. I did not invent this technique, and so I can't cry foul if someone uses it to create artwork that sells for millions. However, this is as artistic as I get, and I don't want people to steal my art.

    woah, i see like a hawk, a guerrilla, a tropical island etc. i see a bunch of different things in those pics