The Secret Of Carlo Van de Roer's Aura-Sensitive Portrait Machine

© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer
© Carlo Van de Roer

In 2008, Carlo Van de Roer began making portraits with a very special camera. Sold as the "AuraCam 6000," it's essentially a Polaroid land camera that also accepts photographic input from a biofeedback sensor, which when exposed on film, registers as a dreamy cloud of color around the frame's edges.

The Aura Imaging™ website is slanted toward mysticism, as you might have already guessed, so the precise type of biofeedback being collected is not immediately clear ("This is classified as a biofeedback apparatus. Our technologies produce an electronic interpretation of what we believe the Aura would looks like. It does not photograph the actual Aura. There's nothing that exists which can do this.") My guess is that the "electral potential along the meridian points of the palm of the hand" are a combination of humidity, temperature and electromagnetic data, which is exposed onto the film for six to eight seconds after the initial photograph is made with visible light. More or less like an electric mood ring.

In addition to the image itself, the camera attempts to interpret what it sees. It delivers this information in a printed chart, which Van de Roer presents alongside his portraits of artists, designers and friends.

Yoko Okutsu's aura, decoded by the AuraCam 6000
Yoko Okutsu's aura, decoded by the AuraCam 6000
© Carlo Van de Roer

Van de Roer was drawn to the AuraCam for its capability to "explore the idea that a camera can reveal an insight into the subjects character or the relationship between the photographer, subject and viewer," he writes. Speaking to the website Another, Van de Roer recounted how his subjects reacted to such an unconventional portrait: "One guy was so sure his portrait shouldn't be red that he jumped into the deep freezer in the studio to try to cool down and change the portrait, but the angrier he got about it the redder it became."

In terms of decoding the auras, Aura Imaging provides several example keys. Red, it turns out, is more a sign of inner energy, or creativity, or passion. Or in the case of one unfortunate sitter, a sign that she is "tired, burned out, needs recreation."

If you are in New York, Van de Roer is giving a presentation on his Portrait Machine project tonight (June 26) at Aperture Gallery in Chelsea. In July, the portraits will be on view at Randall Scott Projects in Washington DC.

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