My X-ray enhancement technique

Technique

I take the image into Photoshop and fragment it, place the parts in different layers and treat them differently; some I blur, some are stretched or distorted, others altered by changing the density of colour or the grey scale, and so on. I then make a selection of backgrounds using photographic images I have taken myself, very occasionally from the internet, though I try not to do that, and then add further references, perhaps with an image that has connection to the X-ray or the disease process or perhaps text from a scientific article or news paper. These are placed in different layers and similarly processed. I then look at what I have got and perhaps drop additional colour into various areas according to how I feel, or how the spirit moves. Finally I arrange the layers in an appropriate order, using a Photoshop facility that allows me to add, subtract, multiply, etc. the images, maybe leaving some unprocessed and others heavily altered, some relating to each other, some not. As in all art there is an element of serendipity, and it is the extent to which this is controlled that is important. Finally the layers once chosen and processed to produce a harmonious whole are then fused together to become a single image.

 

Tony Lamont: A man with Emphysema

Tony Lamont, Chest 30, Pneumonia

Some might be concerned about privacy for the person whose X-ray I am working upon. The original images are derived from teaching files where the image has been de-identified all information that could lead to identification of the patient has been removed. (Some other X-ray artists use human X-rays without removing the person’s name; if this is done without specific permission, it is I think unethical) I try hard to treat the image as presented in the final picture with respect for the person, whoever they are. The extent to which I achieve this is borne out by observer reaction to the image, and I hope it is successful, but the intention is definitely there (the road to hell is paved with good intentions).

When drawing or painting, as the process progresses, there comes a moment when the picture is satisfyingly complete. The artist must then stop fiddling with it otherwise it is spoiled. It is the quality of that “spoil” that fascinates me because it seems to place the image into a second incomplete phase which then needs to be worked upon further till it reaches a second “complete” phase. If the artist doesn’t stop, another similar process happens, and potentially it repeats itself. The trick is to know when to stop. Thus the X-ray itself represents a “finished” item; further work done on it like colouring represents stages where other X-ray artists generally decide to stop. I simply take the process a lot further with many more stages and processes to achieve what I am aiming for. And I hope it works.

Here are two pictures that show the difference between adding a different colour to achieve a different emphasis – Chest 18 –  works, however before addition of the extra tone Chest 17 is OK but not nearly as good.

Tony Lamont: Battered baby Chest 17

The decision to alter something that looks good already is hard to make, and the effect may be subliminal.

The question of whether an observer “likes” an image is not really relevant. The answer for me is whether the observer recognises truth in the image; whether it is a pleasant truth or an unpleasant one, it is that recognition that turns a picture from a pretty decoration into art. You may ask the old philosophical question “What is truth?”. The best answer I have heard for that is “Truth is a rabbit in a bramble patch, the best you can say is that it is in there somewhere”. Truth varies according to your perspective and to your experience. It can sometimes be displayed in words, but often can be expressed only in some other less cerebral, more ephemeral form, like a painting, like music, like taste (the bitterness in beer), like touch, etc. So the viewer looks at a painting and thinks “This disgusts me, I would never hang that on my wall”, they are reacting to the intrinsic truth contained in the image, it is therefore successful as an art piece.

 

I once saw an exhibition at a country village in the UK. The pictures were undoubtedly beautiful, but the only one that sold was a small oil sketch, that the artist told me he didn’t originally intend to display, showing a close-up, almost a silhouette, of a hedgerow, quite dark, with the light sparking through tiny gaps between the stems and branches. It spoke to me of the reality – it was something I hadn’t stopped to think about before and made me want to be there, I saw truth in what he was trying to portray.

In summary therefore one should think about it this way “What did the artist intend to portray? What did the artist actually portray? How do we react as individuals to the intended and actual images?”

12 Responses to “My X-ray enhancement technique”

  1. elappleby April 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi Tony
    I found this post fascinating – I’ve always been bothered by what is and isn’t art – and who gets to decide (the artist, the beholder, or the critic?). For me, as for you, it is whether it makes me feel something – not necessarily whether I want it on my wall.

    • Xraypics April 12, 2013 at 7:33 am #

      That’s right. Art is a direct route to the emotions. A good friend “freaked out”when she looked at one of my earlier pictures and now refuses to look at any more. I’m sad, but it means the picture was successful – an affirmation of my art. Thanks for visiting and your comment! Tony

  2. leecleland June 5, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

    I cannot believe I haven’t been and looked at this page before! I have admired your images from the first time I saw them and yet never came here. “Art” is something I have struggled with all my life, having been a freelance patchwork quilting teacher for over 20 years and always thinking of myself as a technician first and foremost. Now I have time to indulge in my first love, photography, this “art” thing is back in my face as I try to find my “voice” in a very crowded world of images.
    Thank you for your thoughts on “art” I find they state what has been muddling around in my head all this year – if I don’t feel something looking at image, what is the point of it. Some images do this better than others but that is what I am striving for – a reaction of some sort.

  3. Xraypics June 5, 2013 at 11:10 pm #

    I’d like to say “Hi Lee” but it makes me think of a 1960s pop song (a rather nice one at the time), so I won’t. Thankyou so much for your comment, and good luck with your photography. I think art makes its point through the language of the medium – in a way that words alone cannot. If you haven’t already, do visit Davidtripp.wordpress.com he often has much more erudite quotes about the philosophy of art than I can ever hope to produce. I will follow your blog with interest. Keep up the good work. Tony

  4. dedepuppets July 2, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Hi Tony,
    I finally got round to have a good look at your blog. X-rays are a fascinating thing. You can’t get more naked! Interesting how you then dress them up with your aritst’s interpretation. Our works are similar in a strange way. I also have one friend who took one look at my work, only to decide to never look at anything I do again and I agree with you, it is sad, but it affirms the art.

  5. elmediat January 7, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Fascinating & striking image. Always worthwhile to learn about other approaches & techniques in creative image processing. 🙂
    Belated Happy New Year.

    • Xraypics January 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

      Thankyou for your comment, and best wishes to you too. I haven;t looked at this part of the blog for a while and realise it is now a little out of date, and i should do some more work on it.

  6. cindy chang August 7, 2014 at 10:23 pm #

    Those are very interesting piece of art. I cant imagine people could produce such a masterpiece out from Xray image. That is kinda unique.

    • Xraypics August 8, 2014 at 8:51 am #

      Thankyou Cindy for your kind comment. i have been fascinated by the concept and image of X-rays throughout my career and it is wonderful to be able to incorporate them into my art. Tony

      • Magda May 17, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

        Love the colors of that bag. Betuaiful!I’m into doing hand embroidery right now, and having a great time of it too. It’s been many years since I’ve done any embroidery so it’s a relearning experience.

      • http://goanalyze.info/gsb.gov.tr June 1, 2017 at 4:11 am #

        that’s appalling what you say about a baby kitten costing very little is true I am in dire financial straights at the moment but I would rather go with out than have any 1 of my 5 animals suffer and if I was brought a little kitten with out a home I would find a way to keep it until another home could be found. I am sorry but she must be a very hard harted woman to be able to turn away a young animal like this

      • http://goanalyze.info/ingossip.gr June 1, 2017 at 4:15 am #

        The quarrel, argument or dispute the label is referring to is a pillow fight a la Doris Day and Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk land. Or maybe between Sophia Loren and Cary Grant in Houseboat – much better. Gorgeous wonderful nightgown and peignoir. Do lounge about in it! The perfect crown as well.

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