As an X-ray photographer, Nick Veasey only shoots the dead. “If it wasn’t dead, it would certainly have been dead after I X-rayed it, with the amount of radiation I used,” Veasey says in a July 2009 talk posted at www.ted.com. Veasey is a British artist who ditched Leica lenses for the surface-piercing photons of X-ray machines and airline cargo scanners. The X-rays that doctors and vets snap are millisecond affairs, fuzzy one-takes that minimize a patient’s exposure to radiation. Veasey’s otherworldly, razor-crisp images require that he blast his subjects with streams of radioactive ions for up to 12 minutes. “The thicker the object, the more radiation it needs,” Veasey explains.
Veasey comes to Klaudia Marr Gallery on Friday, May 7, to answer questions during the gallery’s launch of an exhibit of 20 of his images. His ghostlike works have captured the interiors of turntables, daffodils, underwear, hard drives, dobros, MP3 players, teddy bears, and even a pair of Jimmy Choo stilettos. But his eyecatching X-ray work also shows human bodies driving Formula One cars, operating bulldozers, and riding buses. “To make it come alive, you need somehow to add the human element,” Veasey says. The body in many of his photos is “Frida,” a human skeleton used by student radiographers.
Veasey used Frida to spectacular effect when he X-rayed an entire bus. Though it looks like more than 20 passengers sitting, standing, and reading newspapers, they are all just Frida in different poses. To pull off the shoot, Veasey found a company willing to lend him a $3 million X-ray scanner used on the U.S.-Mexico border to detect drugs and smuggled immigrants. The resulting image was blown up
1998, C-print/Diasec, 23.5 x 59 inches; top, Kylie’s Knickers, 2008, C-print/Diasec, 23.5 x 59 inches