X ray – A photographic or digital image of the internal composition of something, especially a part of the body, produced when electromagnetic radiation rays are passed through it and absorbed to different degrees by different materials.
As Einstein said: Religion, art, and science are all branches of the same tree. “Art is about asking questions; science is about providing answers. They’re perfect bedfellows. Both enrich and engage the imagination.” (Brooke Roberts)
There’s a long history to X-rays and art. Once the preserve of flowers, today they give us an intriguing view of our extraordinarily complex, contradictory world.
Floral radiography: Almost as soon as X-ray machines became available for medical use, their artistic appeal became evident. It’s thought the first images of x-rayed flowers were published by Goby in 1913 and by Hall-Edwards in 1914.
Dain Tasker: But it was in the 1930s that this LA radiologist, whose ghostly inky images (above), that started more artistic x-ray interpretations. Using his work machine he was able to highlight the soft layering of petals and leaves in an array of plants, his original prints now sell for thousands of dollars.
By composing images with singular flowers Taker examined their individualistic qualities rather than focusing on how they might be found in nature or a bouquet. With these stripped back compositions he wished to convey a romantic notion; “Flowers are the expression of the love life of plants,” he said.
Albert Richards: In the 1960s, a retired dental x-ray professor from the University of Michigan, found fame with his floral radiographs. Since published in many books and magazines, including his own book The Secret Garden and gallery website, his x-ray reproductions are more muscular, even masculine.
Since 1998 radiology technologist and self-taught landscape photographer Steven Meyers has been on a mission to revive floral radiography as an art form.
“I’m on a constant quest for the perfect radiograph — composition is everything. Of the 1,200 images I’ve made with this technique, 95% fail because of composition. There’s no lens to look through to compose images, and [not] all floral subjects make interesting radiographs. Many floral subjects that make spectacular photos make surprisingly uninteresting radiographs,” he said.
He begun in black and white but today’s technology has enabled him to take x-ray art to a new level – with added colour.
Nick Veasey: X ray art has now moved far beyond it’s botanical beginnings. Thanks to the work of Nick Veasey. For the past two decades he has been selling X-rays that reveal the inner workings of everything from insects to children’s toys, even a Boeing 777 jet.
“To create these x-ray artworks serious risks and procedural hurdles need to be managed. The results are worth the hassle. X-ray allows us to see what is normally hidden to the human eye. It reveals the subjects from the inside out and allows us to appreciate what the world around us is truly made of.
In contemporary life, where so much of what we see has been embellished or has a level of artifice, the honesty and integrity the x-ray reveals has a simple, pure elegance.
In a nutshell, the work is a statement against society’s obsession with superficiality.”
In 2012 he showed that style is more than a parade of the glamourous draped in fabric confections. For his exhibition, “Fashion”, he used industrial x-ray machines to capture the inner workings and hidden surfaces of clothing and accessories.
A technique he repeated, in a converted mobile truck, for the recent V&A Balenciaga exhibition.
X rays have inspired fashion in other ways too;
Brooke Roberts: London-based radiographer-and-fashion designer Brooke Roberts has bridged her two worlds with a clothing line that draws upon medical imaging for inspiration.
“I was performing a CT brain scan and wondered how — and if — it could translate to knit,” she said. “So I began the experiment at a factory in Italy, programming [knitting machines to create] knitwear from brain scans.”
Her knitwear collections are influenced by everything from the different opacities of CT scans to the geometry of x-ray calibration films, often with a focus on brain imaging, which helped lead her from medical imaging to fashion.
Eva Maria: using a basic blazer as her inspiration Maria created an eye-catching collection of real sized three-dimensional ‘x-ray’ clothes, showing all the hidden parts of it. Her aim; to reveal the complexity behind plainness.
By layering sheer silk chiffon pieces on top of each other she re-created the effect of an x-ray. The cuts of garments are strict and classic, a touch of masculine to contrast with the fragility of the silk x-ray part.
Louboutin: With a bagful of Louboutin shoes and bags, some jewellery by Michael Van Der Ham and Holly Fulton, and a couple of skeletons – the designers behind this window display made use of a hospital X-ray machine to capture the insides of haute couture accessories in a head-turning display for Loubutin. The aim; to invite customers to explore what lies beneath their soles.
But the last word goes to
Bernadette Bonichi: For her ghostly couple participating in their wedding toast; a pun on “till death do us part’. Fun and macabre at the same time – it plays with our idea of what is real – X-rays are meant to document and evidence, not tease.
You can see more for her here – http://www.toseeinthedark.it/fixedPages/index.html
Featured image: Nick Veasey