Lightning Fields

by Hiroshi Sugimoto

In Lightning Fields he uses a high-voltage generator to release 400,000-volt charges of electricity on to specially prepared photographic paper to produce enlarged images of light particles. What the viewer sees is invisible to the naked eye – explosions of light that extend outwards to resemble the veins of leaves or nerve endings….




Electricity flashes from the thimble-topped fingers of traveling “preacher-scientist” George Speake. From the 1940s into the ’60s, he was one in a series of men affiliated with Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute who demonstrated religious faith by demonstrating scientific principles. To create the lightning effect, Speake would stand atop an electric transformer coil. The room would darken. Then, at his command, a brief high-frequency current would travel over his skin, up from his feet and out of his fingertips. According to notes accompanying the image, Speake suffered no injury because “the high-frequency juice…is too fast to be felt.” Another reason he stayed safe was his extreme care in setting up the trick: The photo’s notes also warn that the practice was “for spectacle purposes only.”

Photograph by Moody Bible Institute, National Geographic Stock