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Nick Veasey for The Macallan

A British X-ray photographer turns to whisky for his latest subject

by Graham Hiemstra
on 08 November 2011

Shooting with an X-ray machine rather than with a traditional camera, British photographer Nick Veasey produces surprising, visually enchanting work that begs the observer to think about what's under the surface. With more than twenty years of experimental experience, the TED speaker's fascinating body of work spans subjects from insects and flowers to cars and even airplanes, each broken down to expose its raw inner components. Veasey's next project finds him putting his graphic images on whisky boxes as part of a collaboration with The Macallan.

Adorned with images inspired by the Macallan's six pillars—spiritual home, curiously small stills, finest cut, exceptional oak casks, natural color and peerless spirit—Veasey's special box set dresses up their signature Sherry Oak 12 Year Old bottles for the 2011 holiday season.

Macallan-Pillar-Drop.jpg Macallan-Pillar-Cask.jpg

In anticipation of the soon-to-be-released holiday editions, we talked to Veasey about his unique craft and his recent work with the whisky maker.

The idea of X-ray photography is so unique, how did it come about and how long have you been experimenting with it?

I'm not the first to use X-rays when creating art, but I do like to think my X-rays are the most impactful. I've been doing this and nothing else for 20 years. I've always been a keen experimenter and never one to obey rules. I saw some X-rays of objects a long time ago and they made a big impression on me. From my first X-ray exposure I've known there is nothing else I want to do. I love X-ray, it's that simple.

Could you briefly explain the process of X-ray photography?

Indeed, special equipment is required, but not a camera. I use X-ray machines similar to those in hospitals, but more powerful. Basically electrons are charged in a vacuum. These electrons become radiographic photons, another spectrum of light. This spectrum of light is invisible and radioactive. That is why it is so dangerous. I have a specially built bunker to control the radiation. The radiographic passes through the subject being X-rayed and leaves an impression on film or a digital capture device.

Macallan-Pillar-House.jpg Macallan-Pillar-Still.jpg
What inspired your work with the Macallan? Are you a whisky drinker?

The Macallan is a big supporter of photography. They have previously worked with Rankin and Albert Watson on their Masters of Photography Series. When we X-rayed the bottle for Macallan we did it full and empty, meaning there was some on hand for me to drink! I find The Macallan to be a very nice Scotch—I get an earthy mellow taste and thoroughly enjoy a dram every now and again after a long day in the studio.

What was unique about shooting the "six pillars" of the Macallan?

Well, on one level the results are unique as these subjects had never been X-rayed before. The house and the water droplet were particularly challenging to shoot. X-raying a house is not simple, nor is X-raying a moving drop of water. My x-ray equipment is not portable so we had to create these images in my X-ray lab. That took some doing, believe me.

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