Looking at the world through x-ray with Nick Veasey
To celebrate Uniqlo LifeWear in 2016, It’s Nice That has partnered with Uniqlo on New Perspectives. We asked four creatives to cast a Uniqlo garment of their choosing in a new light. With ingenuity and technical flair, the results have seen artist Nick Veasey, designer Jesse Auersalo, digital artist Thomas Traum, and photographer Rebecca Scheinberg all represent Uniqlo’s LifeWear philosophy in new and unexpected ways. The project is an exploration of how Uniqlo approaches clothing year on year by championing modern design details and innovating the most everyday of garments.
This is the first article in a four-part series
“Some people have strange occupations and I’m one of them,” says Nick Veasey, an artist who has made a name for himself creating ambitious x-ray photographs of everything from buses to boxers. “As a kid I used to pick up rocks and look for the insects underneath them. That sort of fascination has stayed with me. I like to see the internal structure of something; it’s a different way of looking at the world and I’m sort of obsessed with it.”
For New Perspectives, it didn’t take him long to identify Uniqlo’s Mens Ultra Light Down Parka as the right garment for him and his highly particular method. “X-ray doesn’t really suit everything,” he explains. “A good photographer can make anything work with good lighting and composition. X-ray is a bit more of a literal, honest process and it shows things for what they’re truly made of. I chose the jacket because it had a bit more substance. It’s got a bit of texture to it and a graphic shape, especially with the zip done up and the hood.”
For the last 25 years Nick has been working with x-ray, initially inspired by a newspaper article about a dentist who x-rayed flowers from his garden during his lunch breaks. As someone fascinated by what lies beyond the surface, from there he’s only upped the ante for himself and the complexity of his subjects has grown.
“My work is sort of like a self-managed democracy,” he says. “The pictures are like a scientific investigation of objects. If it’s well made, it shows it. Over the years I’ve x-rayed things like a cheap pair of underpants right the way through to high-end couture, and the couture always looks great because it’s so well made.”
“A good photographer can make anything work with good lighting and composition. X-ray is a bit more of a literal, honest process and it shows things for what they’re truly made of."Nick Veasey
Having marked out his style and well-honed process clearly, Nick was pleasantly surprised to be given a brief that allowed him to take full creative license. “To be given some freedom is to be lauded,” he says. As for the process itself, what seems like it might be startlingly simple to execute is in fact painstaking and made up of many stages.
This particular image began as three film x-rays and had to be stitched together in post-production –the same way Nick has created life-size images of earth diggers. “It’s a very laborious, very slow, luddite process because the object you’re imaging in x-ray comes out on the film exactly the same size as it exists. The jacket, which is probably I don’t know sort of about a metre in length, covers three very large films of x-ray – the largest film that I can get made for me.”
The jacket also posed a particular challenge unique to working with fabric. “X-raying a jacket is much harder than, say, a computer,” he says. “I have to do the whole thing in the dark and the reason is because fabric is very delicate and my x-ray film is light sensitive. Normally, to stop it being affected by the light, I would put it in a light-tight bag. However, the bag is as thick as, or even thicker, than the Uniqlo jacket. If I x-rayed it at the right density you would also see the bag in the film, and it would all end up mishmashed together.”
The only way to get around this is to expose the jacket directly to the film, and this has to be done in the dark. Even with a clear objective and 25 years of experience, as he continues to explore his technique there are clearly still challenges for Nick, and his work seems to embody New Perspectives to a T. “Every now and then,” he says, “even though I’ve been doing it for so long, it still surprises me how things turn out.”
The idea at the heart of all of Uniqlo’s clothing is LifeWear – clothes that make your life better. Style doesn’t have to be superficial; it can keep you warmer, cooler, drier. Uniqlo create LifeWear by evolving the ordinary, producing innovations big and small that benefit you every day.