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Member Spotlight - Nick Veasey


[ February 13, 2001 ]   For Nick Veasey, artistic inspiration came from an unlikely source. While working as a photographer/designer for morning television in England, he was assigned the monotonous task of X-raying soda cans to determine which ones contained a winning code for a contest sponsored by Pepsi. After three days without a winner, he X-rayed his sneaker for kicks. Veasey recalls, "It was a great image and I thought 'there's something to this.' It was one of those life-changing experiences. I just left behind everything else I was doing."

 Veasey spent the next three months working with scientists to refine his technique. He learned to gauge object density and structure by experimenting with a variety of materials including plastic, flowers, metals and people, taking the utmost care with his living subjects.

Armed with his new knowledge, Veasey easily transformed it into commercial success. His intriguing visuals led to assignments for Nike, Porsche, IBM, Bloomberg, and the European edition of Time. He has created such a stir with his advertising work that his "Bus-wrap" image of a whole bus in X-ray had to be removed from the roadways as a safety precaution.

Lately Veasey spends more time working for his company, Untitled, a publishing forum for experimental photography. altpick*com spoke to Nick Veasey about Untitled and the pros and cons of seeing it all.

 Can you tell me more about the bus picture?
All the people on the bus are actually one person; one X-person that I just shot in different situations. The bus element is one shot. I spent a lot of time, about three weeks, on the computer putting all of it together. It's actually technically quite difficult to do.

You used a corpse?
I had a helper move the body around. It actually was an undertaker who lent me the body. I'm not at liberty to say who it is.

I understand you're very cautious when using human subjects?
I never take more than four X-rays of a man or three of a woman. I'm at a point where I generally only need to do two or three.

Do you have much control over the results of the X-rays?
What you control is the amount of radiation; the thicker the object, the more radiation you need. You also control the time for which you expose the radiation and the distance that the radiation source is from the object. In photography terms time is like how long the shutter is open, the amount of radiation is how much light there is coming through it, and the distance is the same as how far the lens is from the object you are shooting. However, it doesn't work on the normal visual spectrum of light. X-rays are invisible.


Do you own your own equipment?
No. It's not the kind of thing you want to have lying around because it's radioactive and phenomenally expensive. To [X-ray] something like a car, the machine that you would use retails at about three or four million dollars. It's not worth buying because I've only used that machine twice in five years.

How involved are you in the creative process?
It all depends. I love to work with the client, brainstorming the concepts, etc… I always say, 'Don't ask me what is possible first because I don't think it's right to bolt on what can and can't be achieved in a campaign. It's either a good idea or it's not, so think freely and we'll do the best job we can.'

How do you see your work evolving?
How I see it evolving is mixing it with regular photography. That would make it even more intriguing, where part of the shot is X-ray and part is real.

Does that merge happen in post-production?
It's two separate processes. You take a photo with a shadow and match the angle of the shadow in X-ray, then create one photograph through scanning it.

Whose work do you admire?
There is an English artist called Bridget Riley who is a psychedelic painter from the 60's and 70's. She creates optical effects through geometric patterns. It has really made a lasting impression on me because you do a double take. I hope these x-rays will do this by showing what's on the inside. It takes another slat on superficiality, which is what I really like. It opens it all up to see what's on the inside, to see whether you like it or not, and it doesn't matter that it's Prada or Wal-Mart.

What about Untitled?
It's been around since 1996. It's different than a typical stock book where you have one photographer next to another. We have a collection of 15 photographers, each with a different section. It's quite a mixture of work. It's a labour of love for me.

What do you do when you're not working?
I play golf and soccer. I try to switch off from work every now and again. I'm building a new studio, which is another labour of love at the moment.

- Contributed by Mary Beth Holland


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