Sunday, May 4, 2008

X-Ray Photography as Art: Hidden Faces of The Inner Space

X-Ray Photography as Art: Hidden Faces of The Inner Space

It was the first day of the year 1896. "What's that large dark oval spot on her finger?" Professor Ludwig Zehnder of the Physik Institute at the University of Freiburg, Germany must have asked his teacher, observing the strange photograph of a woman's hand. Wilhelm Röntgen's answer must have been something along the lines of: "Well, it's the ring… my wife just never takes it off". The first ever X-Ray photograph of a human body part was taken on 22 December 1895, about one week prior to Röntgen's meeting with Zehnder. Hand mit Ringen (German for Hand with Ring, left below), had revolutionized the way medical prognosis is done, but Röntgen's photograph was not only a major milestone in the history of medicine. Hand mit Ringen was also the first step towards X-Ray as a unique genre of artistic photography.

The following is a selection of contemporary X-Ray photography artists who all make spectacular images from everyday objects. While each of them has its own unique language, style or preferred subjects, all of them are hunters in a fascinating, sometimes shocking, inner-space reality.

Nick Veasey: The inside becomes the outside

Published last month by Goodman Books, Nick Veasey's book titled X-Ray: See Through the World Around You is probably the most spectacular well-made work of X-Ray art the world has seen by now. For a bit less than $50 (Amazon) we can all enjoy the inner beauty of a female foot in a high-heeled shoe, an electric chair, hands typing on a laptop and other "insides becoming outsides" by this unique British artist.

According to the Daily Mail Veasey, who uses a converted radar station in Kent for a studio, "passes x-rays through the objects he is photographing to create images on special film" and then uses "a 13-foot scanner to turn them into a digital file." As described by Veasey in his book Intro: "Nothing gives me more pleasure than revealing the inner beauty of a subject. The unseen can be seen, the internal elements and workings revealed. The inside becomes the outside".

Veasey's animal photos such as the above (fish) or the below (dog) are especially fascinating. "When we see an x-ray of the human body" says Veasey in his website, "we react to that image with medical associations. Animal x-rays however have a brutal beauty."

Veasey also makes custom per-order X-Ray images for various commercial clients, leading global brands that already realize the amazing visual qualities of his work. One of the most famous ones, known to every graphic designer all over the world, is the glower images used on the Adobe CS2 Suite packaging.

Another one, made for Adidas, reveals a sensor inside the sole of a sport shoe.

Diane Covert: Inside Terrorism

Inside Terrorism by Diane Covert is an X-Ray and CT documentary of terrorism survivors and a most powerful modern art piece following the footsteps of Mathew Brady, an American photographer who documented the Civil War with hundreds of death images. The idea for the Inside Terrorism project began in 2002 as a personal response to the massive terror wave that swiped Israel during the first two years of the Intifada. It was also meant to comment on "the way terrorism has been justified in some circles."

According to Covert the X-rays and CT scans in this exhibit should be observed as "figurative images and portraits" deriving from "the desire to observe and describe reality with the most modern techniques available" but also from the "need to think and talk about" the by-products of terrorism.

In Covert's words: "Terrorists pack their bombs with common objects - hex nuts, bolts, nails, watches - all meant for peaceful, utilitarian purposes. By blasting them into human beings, they create the madness of our times."

Bert Myers: Inner Beauty of Nature

If you happen to have an access to an X-Ray machine you might be interested with this 160 page 10 X 10.5” full color hard cover coffee table book. Dedicated to the use of ionizing radiation in producing art images Inner Beauty of Nature is, according to Myers, the first book to cover both the history of X-Ray photography as a form of art and the technical aspects of this craft with enough details to allow "anyone with access to an X-ray machine can duplicate the work." The book contains 30 color and 45 B&W X-Ray prints.

As a retired Professor of Surgery at LSUMC and academic physician Bert Myers has always been interested in photography as a medium of art. In the 1980's, while using an X-Ray machine to make images of the very small blood vessels growing into healing wounds (microangiography), Myers had noticed some of the images looked like abstract paintings. "I started to explore the uses of Xray as an art medium, thinking I was one of the first to use such methods. In reality I was not, as Goby, Hall Edward, Dain Tasker, Albert Richards, and William Conklin had preceded me, though I was not aware of that until years later.

Myers subjects include various animals, mostly snail shells and fish (top on this chapter, left to right: Nautilus, Martin's Tibia, Giant Whelk), vegetable photographs such as of leaves and flowers (above: Morning Glory, Phalenopsis Orchid, Japanese Iris), minerals, man made devices such as the above Fluorescent Light Bulb.

X-Ray images are all B&W but in the late 80's Myers began experimenting with X-Ray photo coloring techniques, using filters in the enlarger and Cibachrome paper. Most recently he has been digitizing the images and adding color in PhotoShop. The result, as can be seen in the below (left) "Three Lillies" and (right) Loquat Leaves Orange is astonishing to say the least.

Steven N. Meyers: Negatives, Positives, and Solarized

Adobe's decision to use flowers as subjects for their X-Ray styled cover was probably not a coincidence. Flowers and other plants are of the most popular within this line of expertise. According to Steven N. Meyers a flower X-Ray photo specialist, the earliest floral radiographs were created over 70 years ago. Yet, even today there are only very few radiographic artists in the world.

"By using x-rays instead of light, an unusual innervision can be revealed and nature shows us textures, details, and shadows that would otherwise not be seen" writes Meyers in his website. "Visible light is just a small part the electromagnetic spectrum, and falls between x-rays and infrared. My x-ray images are a collection of negatives, positives, and solarized images, solarized being partly negative and partly positive at the same time." The above images were created by Meyers between the years 1998 and 2008.

Judith K. McMillan: Shifting between warm and cold tones

Photographer Judith K. McMillan uses an X-ray machine as camera to reveal the "beauty of natural plant forms invisible to the human eye". Ephemeral, eerie and extremely aesthetic, McMillan’s images include gladioli, poppies, water lilies, orchids, locust seeds and ferns.

McMillan uses a special technique in which she lightly tones the prints created from the X-ray negatives. This chemical process produces a shift between warm and cold tones, creating a dimensionality in the overlapping layers. Thus, unseen microcosm emerges as "predictable, common and familiar is transformed into a world of newly discovered pleasures."


  1. wow there's a certain artistic quality to those photos, even though they're only x-rays.

  2. Anonymous5.5.08

    way to state the obvious internet tv

  3. Not 1986 as mentioned in the first sentence but 1896.

  4. Posted this link in

  5. Raketentim7.5.08

    I didn't eveb know that X-Rays are an art-form. Thanks for this post!

  6. I've not seen anything like this before!
    Very artistic.

  7. Anonymous11.6.08

    we have always loved the amazing and truely colourful x-ray and scientific works of Hugh Turvey - anyone interested see him at

  8. Anonymous8.2.10

    Hugh Turvey shows 12 years of his work on this site.
    trully amazing branch of art

  9. Anonymous5.9.10

    I just found a beautiful 10" x 14" X-Ray photo done of 3 Easter Lillies. Beautiful. It would have been done about 40 years ago. It is dated on the sealed frame that it was framed in 1973.
    Signature is Gellers or Sellers or Gelliss. etc.. anyone have any idea who was doing these type of art shots then as opposed to all these people who 'invented' it in the 90's?


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