Nick Veasey

Radioactive photographer Nick Veasey works with dangerous wavelengths to reveal the inner beauty of the city.

It's good to know that if British X-ray photographer Nick Veasey ever found himself in a hard place, he could work for Heathrow security. But let's hope it doesn't come to that: The oeuvre that Veasey is building from within his concrete bunker is too freaky to fizzle out just now.

The artist got his start as a scamp when he tried to game a Pepsi hidden-pull-tab contest with a hospital X-ray machine. He didn't find the winning tab, but he did discover a passion for peering into the guts of stuff. Veasey built a fortified compound in Kent, about an hour's drive east of London, and got busy aiming bursts of DNA-scrambling radiation at seemingly anything that crossed his path: a bowler hat, a toy rocket, a Chrysanthemum, a tractor, a bat, a middle finger and a thornback ray that looks like it'd be best buddies with that thing at the end of Prometheus.

Veasey explains on his website that he wants to challenge our way of judging things by external appearances. He thinks it's more interesting "highlighting the, often surprising, inner beauty" of objects. That might explain why he scanned an alleged pair of Kylie Minogue's knickers. When it comes to the internal life of the city, though, that undercover beauty really does shine.

Take the office complex that the artist created above using a single human skeleton and the typical range of office products, like a water cooler and computer monitors. Based on 200 X-rays and a little Photoshopping, the monochromatic scene depicts the departed lounging on a sofa, taking a coffee break and riding an elevator. Never has scutwork looked so intriguing; Tim Burton would love working here.

Then there are Veasey's examinations of the mechanical beasts of burden that ferry us around, or between, cities. Here's a bus that he put through a border-crossing cargo scanner. The "occupants" again are actually just one person or former person, as in this case he used a fresh corpse on loan from an undertaker:

Veasey's "Plane" is just that: A humongous collage of about 500 scans of a Boeing 777 jet. With this incredible image, people who fear a mechanical breakdown while flying now know how insanely intricate the bowels of their rides really are:

If you happen to be in Manchester, the artist has a show going on until July 28 at the Richard Goodall Gallery. For all others, here's an extensive catalog of his eerie creations.

Images used with permission of the artist.

About the Author

John Metcalfe
John Metcalfe

John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.

Most Popular

  1. Postcards showing the Woodner when it used to be a luxury apartment-hotel in the '50s and '60s, from the collection of John DeFerrari
    Equity

    The Neighborhood Inside a Building

    D.C.’s massive Woodner apartment building has lived many lives—from fancy hotel to one of the last bastions of affordable housing in a gentrifying neighborhood. Now, it’s on the brink of another change.

  2. Life

    Why a City Block Can Be One of the Loneliest Places on Earth

    Feelings of isolation are common in cities. Let’s take a look at how the built environment plays into that.

  3. Design

    The Military Declares War on Sprawl

    The Pentagon thinks better designed, more walkable bases can help curb obesity and improve troops’ fitness.

  4. Members of a tenants' organization in East Harlem gather outside the office of landlord developer Dawnay, Day Group, as lawyers attempt to serve the company with court papers on behalf of tenants, during a press conference in New York. The tenant's group, Movement for Justice in El Barrio, filed suit against Dawnay, Day Group, the London-based investment corporation "for harassing tenants by falsely and illegally charging fees in attempts to push immigrant families from their homes and gentrify the neighborhood," said Chaumtoli Huq, an attorney for the tenants.
    Equity

    Toward Being a Better Gentrifier

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to be a neighbor during a time of rapid community change.

  5. Equity

    What CityLab Looks Like Now

    Bigger images, fewer ads—and a recommitment to telling a very important story.