Nick Veasey is a man who sees the world in X-ray vision. Stripping away the layers of everyday life to reveal an often-surprising beauty, his cutting-edge fusion of art and science shows humanity in a very different light.
As a struggling freelance photographer, Nick was asked by his then-girlfriend, a designer for the TV show The Big Breakfast, to X-ray a Pepsi can. The resulting image sparked an idea that he has explored for over 25 years.
Inspired by the floral radiographs of the photographer and dental scientist Albert G. Richards, he has X-rayed everything from Christmas trees to the fashion designs of Alexander McQueen. Most famously, Nick created a life-size rendition of a Boeing 777 jet airliner using over 1,000 separate X-rays, which subsequently featured on the side of a hangar for United Airlines.
Invisible to the human eye, high-energy electromagnetic radiation is a dangerous but ethereal medium. Nick’s lyrical imagery is created using machines used for medicine and industrial radiography. Nestled in a lead-lined chamber in the Kent countryside, he penetrates the surface to take viewers on a journey to a dimension otherwise hidden and unseen.
Along with working with prestigious brands like Porsche, BMW, Levi’s and Nike, Nick has exhibited worldwide and featured in publications including National Geographic, Wired and the Independent. He also appeared on television for the BBC, NBC and Discovery Channel.
Nick says: “My art is something people can connect with. It’s real, it’s not hypothetical and complicated – it’s instant. You can see how things and connect and tell a story. It’s like you’ve blinked and the world has tipped into X-ray.”
In a process he likens to “putting together a jigsaw”, Nick dismantles objects and places them on a lead surface with film behind it. The X-rays pass through the subject, with dense areas absorbing the most radiation and appearing brighter onscreen. To combat the lethal levels of radiation, Nick wears a lead apron and controls the exposure time in a separate room. His skeleton figure is clad in a pressurised rubber suit and is also used in a teaching hospital.
Unlike medical X-rays, which typically use around 100 kilovolts and last 0.2 seconds, Nick’s command an impressive 200 kilovolts and can take up to 20 minutes. Once this is complete, the film is processed and scanned before he digitally layers the images to create a startling 3D effect. A motorcycle comprises around 60 X-rays, while a car uses 500!
Nick says: “We live in a world obsessed with image…what we look like, what our clothes look like, houses, cars. I like to counter this obsession with superficial appearances by using X-rays to strip back the layers and show what it is like under the surface.”
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