Invisible Light, a photoseries by Australian Photographer Brendan Fitzpatrick, reveals what we’d see if Buzz Lightyear ever ended up in the emergency room.
Fitzpatrick has been a photographer for over 20 years documenting the contours of New York’s subways, Bejing’s exploding skylines, and more recently, how x-ray technology can be used to reveal the surprisingly beautiful internal structures of simple objects like roses, crabs, and toy replicas of CH-47 Chinook Helicopters.
Each image starts at a shop where Fitzpatrick looks for inexpensive toys that have a dynamic profile which will remain distinguishable when x-rayed. “When searching for subjects, I’m usually to be found battling my way through discount stores and cut price toy shops,” he says. “Timing it so the headache induced by the tsunami of visual garbage doesn’t get out of control.”
The next step is more challenging—convincing radiology lab technicians to use machines intended to diagnose fractures to reveal the inner workings of faux robots. “Disappointingly few labs were willing to even understand the idea,” says Fitzpatrick. “To most radiographers x-ray machines seem to have as much creative potential as stethoscopes.”
Fitzpatrick describes a typical exchange:
Fitzpatrick: Hello, I’m an artist, would it be possible to work with your lab on this project?
Radiologist: Sir, do you have a letter from a doctor?
Fitzpatrick: No I don’t but please understand this is not for medical purposes.
Radiologist: Yes sir, but we require a doctor’s letter.
Fitzpatrick: To X-ray a toy?
Radiologist: Yes sir.
With black and white imagery in hand, Fitzpatrick post-processes the pictures to restore the jewel-like luster of the injection molded plastic shells. “The robots and ray guns look like they’re cast in candy which reinterprets them, yet remains true to their original design goal, which is to appeal to children,” he says. He then exercises some artistic license to highlight key details like embedded LED lights.
Beyond the “gee whiz” nature of the imagery, the series presents the realities of our modern manufacturing world in thought-provoking ways. Screws, seemingly hanging in the air, reveal the intense level of hand craft required to mass-produce even the simplest of objects. Cables connecting batteries, lights, and microprocessors are threaded loosely by hand and give each indistinguishable plastic shell a sense of personality. “The engineering that goes into these essentially disposable objects is really incredible,” says Fitzpatrick. “There’s a lot of talent out there in those anonymous Asian industrial estates.”
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