Classic Motorcycle X-Rays

It’s safe to say Nick Veasy loves X-rays. From machine guns to airplanes, the photographer has spent years investigating the inner workings of modern mechanics. In his latest series, Veasey focuses on the simple, elegant designs of vintage motorcycles, which look amazing when X-rayed.
He shot the bikes in his studio just south east of London, creating life-size replicas that give viewers a fascinating peek inside the often intricate machines to see what makes them hum. “I wanted to look at the development of engineering in the early part of the 20th-century, and with these old bikes there’s some negative space that helps you appreciate that engineering,” he says.
Veasey found the motorcycles through a local bike club. He photographed them in his 800-square-foot studio using a high-powered X-ray machine that can cost up to $500,000. To contain the radiation, the building has walls 30 inches thick and a lead door weighing more than 2,700 pounds. Veasey triggers the machine remotely, working outside of the studio just to be safe. Nothing was permanently contaminated by the process.
Nick developing the film.
Nick developing the film.
Instead of shooting one big X-ray, Veasey made 35 to 50 images and combined them in Photoshop. He’d start at the front wheel, then move to the engine, the rear wheels, and finally the saddle and handlebars. The denser the part, the more radiation was required to get the shot. It was time consuming, but a snap compared to the time he disassembled and photographed more than 1,000 pieces of a Boeing 777.
“I was thankful we didn’t have to take the motorcycles apart,” Veasey says.
For the photo with a rider, Veasey placed a human skeleton on the bike. He used a pressurized rubber suit to keep the bones together – he X-rayed the clothing later and added it in with Photoshop.
Veasey hopes to photograph more bikes. He’d like to finish the series with a replica of Captain America, the iconic motorcycle from the film Easy Rider. He also has several new projects in the works, including building a mobile X-ray studio on a truck and working on a series of lenticular portraits using the same skeleton that rides the motorcycle. For Veasey, the process never gets old.
“This is a visual choice,” he says, “X-ray is in my blood.”
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