Nestled deep within the changing landscape of Chinatown lies Magic Jewelry - a store encompassed by as many Starbucks, McDonald's, and banks as crystal shops and Chinese restaurants.
The unassuming storefront doesn’t advertise much beyond, well… jewelry that purports to be magic. They’re not shining too much light on the very thing that draws throngs of people here each day - Aura photos.
The most this service gets is a few laminated print-offs stuck up against the window, overshadowed by the neon signs bearing the store’s name. And yeah - you can buy all manner of crystals, stones, and accessories here, but what you really want to get is your aura photographed.
So how does it all work?
The photographic process that captures a person’s electromagnetic energy field was invented in 1939 by Russian electrical engineer Semyon Kirlian. Your aura is captured through two Polaroid photos taken with two different exposures, the first of which is a straight up, simple pic of you while the other is said to capture your body’s electricity.The electricity you’re emitting has a color and that’s captured in the second exposure.
That’s your aura.The folks at Magic Jewelry capture a visual of the electromagnetic energy emitting through your body via hand sensors, and explain where it comes from and what it all means. Your aura can be affected by your mood, how energized or how fatigued you are.
Magic Jewelry’s camera is an 18-year-old contraption, propped up on a tripod, facing a chair that has two metal plates in the shape of handprints on either side. Once you’re seated in front of the olden-timey camera, you place your hands on the metal plates and get ready to have your aura captured. You don’t get much of a countdown to put on your best camera-ready face, but that’s all good as your expression is going to be obscured by your aura for the most part.
All you can see in my Aura photo is my big-ass grin and the vague outline of my body and head. After about two minutes, you receive a polaroid picture of your visage, which is mostly obscured by a hazy cloud of color peppered with splotches of varying shades. You then head over to the front desk and sit down opposite one of the employees who analyzes your aura and reveals some surprisingly accurate truths about you. It’s like seeing a psychic or having your tarot cards read, but you come away with an Insta-worthy photo of yourself and a sweet memento.
The woman at Magic Jewelry knows what’s up with your body before you do. My girlfriend has gone in there a handful of times, some of which have ended with the woman telling her she’s about to start her menstrual cycle.
Now my friend’s walking away thinking that’s crazy” but lo and behold, her period starts a couple of hours later. I didn’t know an aura photo could reveal physical ailments, but this aura-reading woman clocked a sports injury in my right shoulder and told me about all the tension I was carrying up there.
My aura was almost entirely red, with a few splashes of orange. The woman at the desk told me that this was because I’m incredibly passionate (true) and full of creative energy (also true - or at least it was at the time) but a red aura can also signify exhaustion or being overworked, which she nailed as I was performing at multiple stand-up comedy gigs each night and hitting the town hard afterwards.
It was the summer! The frozé was flowing - my aura was feeling it.
The readings last about 10-20 minutes, depending on how busy they are at the time. My girlfriend and I got lucky; we went in right at the end of the store’s day. The place closes around 7 PM - we got the best aura reader (the older woman - she’s the one with the sixth sense for your menstrual cycle)and a good, long, in-depth reading with no competition vying for our spots at the desk.
That’s my recommendation - come close to closing to get your $20’s worth.
Aura photos have extended beyond the streets of Chinatown though and have made it all the way to the Whitney Museum of American Art, thanks to one Christina Lonsdale of Radiant Human.
Lonsdale took up a 10-day residency at the Whitney in 2016 and has done pop-up aura photography at various venues in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Though Lonsdale doesn’t consider herself an aura photographer, but rather a visual artist using the medium to “foster the ephemeral and make the metaphysical tangible,” and thanks to her huge cult following and strong contingent of Instagram followers, she’s photographed the likes of Emma Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Zosia Mamet among other celebrities.