Photographer Robert Buelteman uses thousands of volts of electricity to create his photographs by zapping a little life and energy into already beautiful plants. The process, called Kirlian photography, was made famous in 1939 by Russian inventor Semyon Davidovich Kirlian who discovered the process accidentally through experimentation. To capture the glowing light through each flower, Buelteman first carves at the plants with surgical tools until they are thin and sheer. Next, he places a sheet of transparency film below a metal sheet floating in liquid silicone. He puts the plants on top of the film and connects them, with clamps, to a source of voltage. Buelteman then generates up to 80,000 volts through the plant to capture the resulting glow on film.
Buelteman works completely in the dark, so after he shocks the plants, he paints with light across the shape of the plant to add additional illumination and detail to the image. These glowing plants are an impressive example of photographic techniques that don’t require any digital manipulation.The artist says, “While I remain fascinated by the organic design of simple flowers and plants, I have become increasingly drawn to the power of abstraction made available through the manipulation of color, form, and light.”