David Arky Creates X-Ray Installation for ASME

By Jacqui Palumbo

David Arky has always had a fascination with technology. He planned to study engineering in college, but took one semester at RIT before switching into photo illustration. He moved to Los Angeles to pursue photography, studying at the Art Center College of Design and assisting several photographers before moving back to New York to develop his own advertising, design and editorial portfolio. His focus in photography echoes his first interest in engineering—Arky photographs objects with an emphasis on how they are built and how they function. Photo illustration allows for his objects to take on an unconventional view, and he often interchanges one material for another to convey his concepts.

Clockwise from top left: "Green" light bulb concept, Brain for Smithsonian Magazine, and lungs made of flowers. All images © David Arky

While much of Arky’s work is photographed with a digital camera, he is also known for his x-ray imaging, which he has been shooting for over 19 years. He originally started using the medium for an assignment for Strathmore Paper, where he was asked to recreate an image of a suitcase passing through airport security. He recalls, “I told them that I needed a few weeks to test out the process, and the rest, as we say, is history.” X-ray images cater to his fascination of machine-age objects, and he says he loves the textures and forms that are revealed in the process.

His most recent x-ray project is a large-scale series of household objects, toys and technology commissioned by Pentagram Design for an installation in the New York headquarters of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). The images present “an internal view that remind the viewer of the inner-workings that make such technology possible.” Arky received the commission through persistence—after sending promos to the designers at Pentagram for several years, the right project surfaced for his expertise.

David Arky with a typewriter x-ray on display at ASME / Courtesy David Arky

In the months before the shoot took place, Arky, Creative Director Abbot Miller and Project Manager Clara Scruggs went back and forth over which objects he would photograph. They settled on seven in total: a Mr. Machine toy, padlocks, a bionic hand, a Miele vacuum and a vintage typewriter, as well as a Nagra tape recorder and an electric toothbrush that did not make the final cut. They selected props that would have “a good reveal” with the x-ray camera, which Arky says is “something [my team and I] have learned by doing this for a number of years.”

Mr. Machine toy x-ray / © David Arky

Unlike his conventional still life shoots, where he edits down the number of props beforehand, Arky asks his stylist to gather more props than they will need to be x-rayed. Some images will show all the detail he envisioned, but often he will composite a number of x-rays together to enhance the clarity of detail and lighting.

Vacuum cleaner x-ray / © David Arky

The final five images for the ASME installation are 5-feet x 5-feet and were printed on a Lightjet 5000 using Duratrans and mounted on Plexiglas. Each image is placed in a lightbox powered by LED lamps. The series is on permanent display in the New York headquarters.

For more of David Arky’s work, visit his website.


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