Harper's Bazaar Art: Why and how did you start to work with X-rays?
Nick Veasey: I was travelling in the US when I saw an article about Dr. Albert Richards, a dentist that took exquisite X-rays of plants. I kept the article in my ‘interesting’ box. About a year later my wife, who was the designer for a TV show called The Big Breakfast said she needed an X-ray of a cola can as a visual for the show. Well, I was struggling to make my way as a photographer, needed the money badly so I persuaded her to tell her boss that I could do it. That was a total blag. I had no idea how to do an X-ray and my initial enquiries with hospitals were a total failure as they were "too busy treating patients to mess around." Luckily I also found out that X-rays are used in industry to analyse metal fatigue – we don’t want the landing gear of an aircraft to have any cracks in the metal castings. So, I hired an X-ray machine and a technician, and 25 years later, I’m still doing it.
Nick Veasey working with the new La Prairie Foundation
HBA: What inspires you as an artist?
NV: I find inspiration in contemporary culture, just like most artists. I am particularly inspired by artists working with just one medium or technique and consistently produce quality work. The work of Bridget Riley particularly inspires me. Ideas are crucial to creating strong art, and they must be good ideas.
HBA: How is your work fusing art and science?
NV: I use technology that is primarily for scientific use to create interesting pictures. Can you think of a stronger example of fusing art and science?
Multiple X-ray views of the compact foundation
HBA: Can you tell us about your collaboration with La Prairie?
NV: When La Prairie first reached out, I presumed it would be to X-ray some of the organic ingredients that go into the products. I was surprised to find out that the challenge was to X-ray a physical compact. I’ve X-rayed many things, but never a compact. I was really pleased with the results. The image is technical yet ethereal and elegant. This came about due to a real collaboration between La Prairie and myself. The collaboration was fun, and their passion for aesthetics and genuine interest in my X-ray work took us to a place that we wouldn’t have gotten to on our own. That’s what I like about working with talented and passionate people – they take you in a slightly different direction; they push you. I like that a lot.
Open compact view
HBA: Can you share your creative process? Which stage of the process did you enjoy most and why?
NV: My X-ray facility is very different from a typical photographic studio. It is messy and industrial; the concrete chamber that contains my potentially dangerous X-ray machines is as far removed from the glamorous world of cosmetics as you can imagine. This juxtaposition does inspire me though. I like to make beauty from mess and chaos, and that’s what we did. We had to X-ray the Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation from many different angles and in different layers of its construction. TheseX-rays are on film that are then scanned to create a digital file that can be finished off on the computer.The most enjoyable part of the process for me was overcoming the technical challenges. Together with La Prairie, we found solutions that increased the quality of the final X-ray image.
Another X-ray view of the compacts
HBA: How does your work reveal the technology behind our product?
NV: I think the X-ray is like a forensic examination of the Skin Caviar Essence-in-Foundation. It tells the story of the compact, how it is made, and what it does. The X-ray is revealing; it shows all the details that are normally hidden. The final image is beautiful. We have elevated the compact from being a functional object to an aspirational one.
HBA: What are your future projects?
NV: Many. My current major retrospective exhibition at Fotografiska Stockholm is due to have some very VIP’s attending so I am working on the tour. Future projects include an exhibition in March in New York where I will be introducing painted overplayed layers to my X-rays for the first time. We are also working on artworks of X-rays combined with physical objects. So they become part photograph, part sculpture. We are building a new gallery, studio and X-ray chamber that opens in June. Lots going on.