Everything looks cooler when you blast it with X-rays. The photography of Roy Livingston makes electromagnetic radiation his muse; in his colorful series, X-Ray Visions, the skins of alarm clocks, toy robots, old Crosley radios, and more bubble away to reveal their candy-colored X-Ray cross-sections.
X-ray photography is hardly a new thing. Amateur photographers popping inorganic knick-knacks and tchotchkes into an X-ray machine to see what they look like inside as long as the X-ray has been along itself. But X-rays are usually monochrome, which is what makes Livingston’s work so captivating: his X-ray photographs are as psychedelically colorful as a Beyond the Valley of the Dolls dream sequence.
Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Livingston tells me that he didn’t always take such colorful X-ray photographs, but after experimenting with digitally adding color to his work as part of a study called “36 Robots,” “the flood gates opened.” Each of his photos begins on the analogue side by taking an X-ray and developing it. He then scans it into his computer in ultra high-resolution, manually cleaning the image as he goes. After cleaning, he creates hundreds of color variations in Photoshop–“I learned about saving large documents in Photoshop the hard way,” Livingston notes–then, after giving the project a few weeks to simmer, goes back to figure out which color paths he likes best.
When it comes to deciding what to X-ray, Livingston says its all about design. “I’m a big fan of all kinds of industrial design whether it’s new or old,” Livingston tells me. “It’s incredible when you see the thinking, craftsmanship and machining that goes into creating some of these objects. They are works of art by themselves.” If there’s anything he’s trying to get across with his work, Livingston says, “it’s that the simplest things can be beautiful.”
You can purchase prints of Livingston’s X-ray art here.