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Nick Veasey: X-Ray Photographer


Nick Veasey: X-Ray Photographer

by Brian Fichtner
on 26 September 2008

Nick Veasey calls himself the original x-ray nerd. Having spent over a decade obsessively chronicling thousands of objects through x-ray photography, it's an appropriate label. While our society is taught to concern itself with the alluring surface of things, Veasey uses industrial x-ray machines to peel back those upper layers, often revealing a far more beautiful, and complex, underside. Having produced the largest x-ray photograph ever—a Boeing 777 that required over 500 separate x-rays of individual elements—one would think Veasey had reached his summit. As the slideshow and interview below reveals, he's only just getting started.

Cool Hunting: You were formerly an advertising photographer. Advertising is all about creating desire, most often through seductive imagery. How did you make the transition from looking at the surface of objects, to looking beneath?

Nick Veasey: I never really did classical ‘glossy’ advertising type photography. I don’t really like the synthetic look that over manipulated images have. In particular I hate the advertising aimed at men and the worst example of this is Gillette. It is so contrived and cheesy. I dabbled with ‘conventional’ photography by using a camera and film, but I never made conventional imagery. That part of my career was all about experimentation and abstraction.

Moving from abstraction to x-ray was difficult as x-ray is very much a technical process. You have to understand the physics and chemistry of it all. I’m no Einstein so this part was hard. But like most things, the best way to learn is by practical involvement. The more I do it, the better I get. Conceptually speaking, the looking beneath the surface analogy has many avenues to explore. I’ve only just started...

CH: Once you embarked upon this new artistic trajectory, did you—and do you continue to—find yourself looking at the world differently?

NV: You bet. I find myself considering most things in x-ray vision. I can make educated guesses as to what things look like in x-ray. Often I’m wrong – which is good and keeps my feet on the ground. The difficult issue for me is to keep focused on a particular project. So many things that I come across tempt me to pick them up and x-ray them that I get distracted from any particular themed project I may be working on. I’m 46 and my mind is still very active and open to influence. I do find that, in this age of information overload, I’ve had to develop this filtering process. If an idea keeps nagging at me, then I’ll do it. But as I have so many ideas I have to let most fall into the ether and only commit to the ideas that won’t go away, they keep nagging me. So I do them. As I get older my main objective is to do better work, but more slowly, making my results more beautiful and more challenging.

Most of the images that bombard us all are ‘aspirational’. I want to be sexy, cool, thin, younger... My work is real. X-Ray is an honest process. It shows things for what they are, what they are made of. I love that. It balances all that glossy, superficial bollocks. I’m real and straightforward. And so is my work.

Click through for the full interview.

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