Nick Veasey: X-ray Art.
A fusion of art and science – aesthetic, detailed, captivating, and fragile.
British artist Nick Veasey photographs objects using X-rays – and thereby brings their insides to the outside. 63Magazine sent the Mercedes-AMG GT R in for an X-ray inspection!
When we hear the word “X-ray,” most people think of broken bones and hospitals. But not Nick Veasey. The multiple-award-winning English artist scans everything around him to see whether it is suitable for his X-ray photography. He began with a small cola can – and, using this technique, he has subsequently even taken snapshots of entire buses, airplanes, and many other vehicles.
“In my 20s I tried to make a career as a photographer. I wasn’t doing that well, to be honest,” Nick Veasey remembers. “Then I had the opportunity to take an X-ray of a cola can. That was a life-changing moment. I knew I didn’t want to do anything else in my life!”
We meet the London-born artist in the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany – the only X-ray system on earth that is large enough to take pictures of an entire car. A few years ago, Nick Veasey started x-raying and photographing classic cars here. Today, though, he has taken on a car that brings together state-of-the-art design and trailblazing technology – the Mercedes-AMG GT R Coupé*.
A nice, if challenging, task: “Modern cars are much more complex,” says Veasey. “They are full of electronics, speakers, safety, crumple zones, and airbags.” He can’t differentiate between these components while taking the pictures. “The X-ray always goes through the whole object. You can’t stop it halfway through.”
*Kraftstoffverbrauch kombiniert: 12,4 l/100 km | CO2-Emissionen kombiniert: 284 g/km | Emissionsangabe 
Veasey gives the starting signal. The Mercedes-AMG GT R is driven into the hall, positioned on a platform, and lifted with a crane. Together with the scientists of the Fraunhofer Institute, the artist precisely orients the high-resolution X-ray camera. Its lens will take the pictures that will emerge on the surface of a fluorescent screen. This so-called scintillator transforms the X-rays into visible light.
Veasey and all the staff leave the hall. In the anteroom, they tweak the X-ray machine. Using nine mega electron volts, so 9,000,000 electron volts – 20 times that of a conventional X-ray system – the Mercedes-AMG GT R is x-rayed for 20 minutes. With no damage to the people or the machine.
“The radiation doesn’t contaminate cars and cans in any way,” explains Veasey. As soon as the machine is switched off, the X-ray radiation abates. Security measures, largely automated, are however necessary. “The systems are designed so the X-ray will only start emitting once everybody or every living thing is out of the room.” Veasey doesn’t take images of living people. To create a similar effect, he uses skeletons.
A few seconds later: the X-ray image appears on the screen. Veasey is excited. With delicate lines, the complex inner workings of the Mercedes-AMG GT R appear on the image.
The two-dimensional picture has an unexpected and vivid depth, revealing the passion and enormous technical skill that the AMG mechanics channel into the construction of the sports car.
The image of the Mercedes-AMG GT R on the screen is not yet the finished artwork. Nick Veasey will edit the file at home on the computer. “It is only 80% complete now. I’d like to enhance a few areas – some spokes of the wheels and the steering wheel need to stand out a bit more.”
“I will just manipulate it to enhance it, but it won’t change fundamentally.”
Nick Veasey, X-ray artist
Studying Nick Veasey’s pictures teaches us that if you consider your surroundings carefully, you will always find beauty. Christmas trees, DJ equipment, shoes, whistles – during his “forensic investigations,” the artist has teased out the hidden elegance from countless items: the objects’ soul. But he is still curious: “When a new invention comes out, I want to x-ray it. Recently, astronaut Tim Peake was the first Brit to fly into space. I’d like to x-ray the capsule in which he returned to earth. That’s on my to-do list!”
We can therefore look forward to finding out which everyday objects Nick Veasey will put under the microscope next. Until then, we are enjoying his snapshot of the Mercedes-AMG GT R, which reveals in mesmerizing fashion the sophisticated details that usually stay hidden under its bodywork.
Since 1996 Nick Veasey is taking photography to a new level – his X-ray vision even penetrates metal!
With images of all kinds of everyday objects, Brit Nick Veasey uses X-rays to create his unique artworks.
In 1996, Veasey made his first X-ray artwork.
So far, the Brit has x-rayed over 5,000 objects.
X-raying a car by Nick Veasey:
Energy: 9 mega electron volts, duration: 20 min.
X-raying a flower by Nick Veasey:
Energy: 40 kilo electron volts, duration: 30 sec.
X-ray Art | Nick Veasey
Photography | Jan Hütz