This series of five pictures does not have an X-ray in it! These were taken at the Ewan Country Race meeting in Northern Queensland a couple of years ago. As an experiment I’ve rendered them in black-and-white with just a touch of colour in each. I’m asking for comments and suggestions on technique and choice of subject.
This picture is simply a celebration of the number of mobile X-rays done in hospital for people who are too ill to come to the X-ray department for their investigation. It requires a certain kind of dedication on the part of the radiographers who must be obsessional about getting the patient, the cassette, and the X-ray tube just right, not to mention the problems with low-powered machines, and unconscious or difficult patients. I greatly respect the technicians who can produce excellent mobile images.
A recent mail-out from a gallery showing pictures of an artist who paints on the reverse side of Perspex sheets using coloured inks, and then lights them from behind inspired this image. It was obtained by layering various coloured images and then using a masking tool to cut out sections allowing under layers to show through. The margins and edges were then smudged with a large brush to push the colours around in a soft intermixing appearance. On top I laid down the stripey segmented image copied from the bottom layer, textured it and tried the DROP SHADOW tool which didn’t work because the shadows were uniform across the image giving a flat appearance. I wanted the layer to look as though it was bent upward away from the lower layers. So I copied it, placed the copy under the original, warped and reduced opacity, using the MULTIPLY blending mode to form the shadow effect I was trying to achieve.
I’m fairly pleased with this picture, it has not achieved quite the flat texture of the inspiration piece, but it has taken on its own meaning, and that’s a good thing. It’s best regarded as an experiment and a piece of development.
For this challenge “365 Degrees” a portrait of myself was superimposed upon the same portrait reversed as a mirror image. It was then segmented and the elements painted and textured, each treated with a different filter to produce a mask-like figure, the mask split by my own Chest X-ray taken when I had pleurisy in Pondicherry, India, a few years ago.
Making a self-portrait is itself a challenge, it is inherently autobiographical. In these times selfie photographs are bandied about two a penny, but they nevertheless reveal something of the identity. In this selfie I discover aspects of myself not previously realised. In some ways this image is personally significant; quite a brutal exposure, which I hesitate to explain further.
Photography is the art of documentation and a self-portrait is a singular document; it mirrors reality with precision and incredible detail. But it can also be used to question our perception of reality producing elaborate fiction within the image. Photographs are not mere recording devices. In a way the photograph is analogous to a stage upon which to enact our own story. Fiction contains elements of truth, sometimes well hidden. For an actor, the character is the mask that hides the actor, he is protected by it; it allows him to lay down his soul, bare to the last intimate detail.
Circles within circles, and circles interacting with circles. For this challenge I raided every picture in my stash with a circle in it. They have been blended and segmented and overlaid to produce this complex picture. It is a step away from the simpler pictures I have been doing, but I hope it works.
There is a spiral within these interactions that focusses on a small yellow ball. The focus is extracted from an X-ray image of a child who had swallowed a 20¢ piece. It was stuck in his throat at the thoracic inlet. Coins and button batteries seem to be the main foreign bodies children swallow these days, the latter can give a large dose of lithium and poison the child, the former can get stuck and if not removed, erode through the oesophagus causing all kinds of mischief.
With this post I reach the end of this alphabet series, and in some ways it is a relief, in others a fascinating journey. Looking back over the pictures for this series it has been interesting to see how my focus has changed, how I have used varied techniques, and how different the impact of the pictures has been.
Z on any child’s alphabet is for Zebra, but it is also for Zoo, and there is a group of diseases, some very different indeed, called Zoonoses. This is where an agent that normally affects animals becomes transferred to humans, and people with close contact to animals – farmers, abattoir workers and veterinarians – are most at risk. Occasionally the disease is transmitted directly such as a tuberculous skin disease that affects fish and gets transferred to the skin of people working in aquaria. Others are transmitted indirectly through things like milk – listerosis, or brucellosis for example.
For this picture I chose a woman who owned a parrot and contracted psittacosis through breathing in the dust from the bird faeces as she cleaned the cage.
The picture contains layers of various colours to bring out the overall effect, prominent amongst those is a close-up photo of a rainbow lorikeet – his foot is just visible at the bottom of the picture. I had a photo of rusty reinforcement bars sticking out of the side of a building which was warped and re-coloured to give a graceful sweep and focus the eye onto the X-ray picture on the lower left.
So this challenge has been a particularly hard one for me. I thought about Y chromosome deletions but I’ve already done that (X0), or Yeast infections (Thrush). I also wondered about Yersinia infection. I worked for a while with a tiny Jewish guy who ran the laboratory. When I knew him, he seemed to be about a hundred years old. He couldn’t have been because he had a lovely wife who also worked in his laboratory. He described human infection with Yersinia pseudotuberculosis in the United Kingdom. It is implicated, (but as far as I know it’s not proven) in Crohns disease as Yersinia enterocolitica and of course Plague (otherwise known as Black Death)as Yersinia pestis. But I digress.
I decided to use Young Infant as the index term. I worked with infants for about six months before moving to radiology. As a consultant, newborns and their diagnostic problems were part of my daily work for many years. Infant X-rays strike terror into the hearts of trainees; there’s no good reason why they should. There are only a limited number of conditions that affect infants. So I break the diagnostic process into segments by age, clinical presentation, and so on, to try and simplify things for them.
The infant in this image taken at 2 hours of age was a very young preterm born at 30 weeks almost ten weeks too early. He developed many of the complications of prematurity such as hyaline membrane disease, but survived due to the skill of the neonatal paediatric team.
For this challenge it would have been too obvious to put in “X for X-ray” (I could have chosen any one of hundreds). However Turner’s syndrome came to mind and the index X-ray is a child with this condition.
Most people are born with two chromosomes that control gender; XY for males, and XX for females. Children with Turner’s syndrome are born with a single X chromosome (termed X0). They grow up to look like girls, but without normal female characteristics like breast development, and are infertile. Although most Turners children have normal intelligence they are characteristically short with a webbed neck, and there are several congenital abnormalities that may accompany the condition.
This girl was born with a narrowing of the main blood vessel to the body, the aorta, known as coarctation and had other cardiac defects. The aorta normally forms an arch like a walking stick, but on X-ray of children with coarctation the outline forms a figure 3. Because the flow through the aorta is obstructed by the narrowing this causes strain on the heart.
In a district hospital in 1977 without cardiac facilities a beautiful two year old girl from a farm some distance away was admitted in a collapsed state. She went suddenly and rapidly into heart failure and nothing we were able to do could revive her. She died within two hours. I well remember her parent’s devastation and my own feeling of inadequacy. She had undiagnosed Turners syndrome with coarctation. This condition can now be diagnosed early, usually antenatally, with modern facilities. The child can be seen and treated by experts; the situation I was exposed to shouldn’t happen nowadays.
In this picture I have tried to show the dichotomy of the chromosomes by dividing the X-ray onto a background of a landscape with marmalade skies, and to show the heart strain this condition can cause.
To obtain the colours I used a combination of blue (water) and orange (orange peel) with a DIFFERENCE filter and the background texture came from the wizened bark of a tree. It was overlain with the landscape and divided by two segmented images taken from the X-ray.