X-Rays, MRI’s…Read all about it!!!

Still Life by Penny Nannini

The Project

Many years ago while I was in X-Ray school one of my instructors thought of a fun way to show us how IV contrast helps to improve the x-ray. He brought in a tiger lily and had us shoot an x-ray of it. The image was barely visible. He then put some IV contrast in a vase with the lily for a few hours. When we shot it the second time, the image was magical. We saw every single vein in the petals; the stem had filled in, as had the stamen. It was an unexpected and lovely class in botanical anatomy.

Several years later I was at a bookstore looking through some photography magazines. I came across an article on Steven Meyer, a well-known photographer that images flowers through x-ray. His work is both beautiful and inspirational.

I had toyed with the idea of doing my own series of flower x-rays for quite some time. I never really did anything about it until about two years ago while trying to come up with some art to put on the walls of our new MRI center. I started with x-rays of Easter lilies and was pleased with the results, but wanted to do an MRI. As far as I knew it had never been done. Like most photographers, I am always looking for a fresh idea or a new way to see things, and how perfect would it be to combine my two professions?

The differences between x-ray and MRI are vast, so I started at square one to re-learn some of the physics. The first two flowers that I worked with were the dogwood blossom and the tulip. It took all day to work out the details which involved vegetable oil, water, and a lot of frustration, but I eventually got a couple of images that were worth framing. Every time I walked by the group of photos I wanted to do more. I would find myself daydreaming about ways to improve the technique until finally, I had to take time off so that I could make this a project. The images here are the result. Since I shot these I have continued to explore new ideas that I am hoping to work on this summer.