From Reiki crystal healing to burning palo santo wood, alternative spiritual practices in the realm of home, fashion, and design—which seem to come in and out of trend on a cyclical basis—are gaining in popularity once again. The latest phenomenon to grip the mystically minded? Aura photographs, which look like barely visible portraits surrounded by fields of color.
Here's how it works: the participant places her hands on two metal plates that are connected to a special camera. When the picture is taken, the subject's energy, or electromagnetic vibrations, is captured and displayed as areas of color on a Polaroid-style instant photograph. Once the film develops—just minutes later—an aura expert (someone who has been trained in biofeedback analysis related to this process) then decodes the meaning of each of the color fields, which are associated with the body's different chakra zones. For example, a transparent area over your face might mean you're not getting enough sleep. Or, a range of different colors overhead might mean your brain was very active at the time your photograph was taken. The reading ends with helpful suggestions to improve your aura.
Because your aura changes regularly, you can have your reading done as frequently as every day, but experts say that once a month is a good standard. Brooklyn-based jewelry designer and aura photography aficionado Martha Porter—who gets her readings done at Magic Jewelry in N.Y.C.—explains her method: "I like to go quarterly," she says. "I always keep my most recent two aura photos on my refrigerator so I will see them often and think about the things I was told in the reading—and so I can see the differences in the images. My most recent aura was smaller than usual, so when I look at it, I remember to take care of myself and get enough sleep."
Thinking about getting your aura photo taken, but not in New York? Check out the tour dates of Christina Lonsdale, a Portland, Ore.-based portraitist who has taken aura photographs for the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Diane von Furstenberg. As it turns out, the start of a new year is a great time to go. Birthdays are also a popular occasion for an annual aura photo, or as Porter suggests: "Go on a day when you are feeling good, or go after you have made a big decision or resolution. Be open minded, you might be surprised by what you learn about yourself."