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Nick Veasey at TEDGlobal 2009: Running notes from Session 9

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Running notes from TEDGlobal 2009, Session 9.

Nick Veasey uses X-rays to create photographs that reveal the inner workings and structure of objects such as shoes, a city bus, a tractor, a bat … and men’s briefs. (He calls the men’s briefs “exquisite.”) Instead of focusing on solely biological entities, he also looks into (looks through) technology. But nature is Veasey’s greatest inspiration. Design and architecture, he notes, are both related deeply to nature.

He takes his X-ray photographs in a shed with a door of lead and steel and thick concrete walls. He uses a high-powered X-ray machine. But instead of looking for disease, he looks for beauty. Since he wants to display his pictures in large format, and since today’s typical X-ray technology only takes lower-resolution photographs, he uses a drum X-ray from the 1980s, often photographing one component at a time in order to execute his larger photographs.

He spent three months X-raying an entire 747 in an aircraft hangar.

He also adds coloring to his X-ray photographs now. The coloring is not accurate to the actual information gotten from the original X-ray image, but it adds a beautiful quality to the photographs. (Coloring also helps his 2D images look 3D.) He then shows a short video of him at work in his lab, as he X-rays objects such as toy dolls, boots, and a multi-story home complete with inhabitants.

As radiation is highly dangerous, Veasey X-rays cadavers to produce the human elements of his photographs. Veasey himself has already been exposed to a dangerous amount of radiation. He wears a device that measures the amount of radiation he’s been exposed to.

It’s work that encourages us to consider the unseen inner workings of our world.

Nick Veasey at TEDGlobal 2009, Session 9: “Revealing energy,” July 23, 2009, in Oxford, UK. Credit: TED / James Duncan Davidson