In the 1930s, Dr. Dain L. Tasker was chief radiologist at Wilshire Hospital in Los Angeles. Radiology and x-ray technology was still in its infancy, only becoming a medical sub-specialty in the 1900s. Tasker took his craft one step further from medicine into the realm of art, by producing radiographs: photographic prints made from x-rays.
He began with various x-ray images, finally settling on producing photographs of flowers and plants from x-rays. The result was beautiful, ethereal black and white prints. He was not, himself, well-versed in photography, and so enlisted the help of Will Connell at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Connell was a modern pictorialist, and was very well-known and active in California photography circles. It was Connell who brought the concept to life for Tasker, not only printing Tasker's photographs, but encouraging Tasker to submit them in competitions and to photography magazines.
People took notice of Tasker's images - with their transparency revealing different densities of plant tissue, the graceful lines of stems and leaves, and the overall aesthetic of the work. Ansel Adams took notice, and printed Tasker's most well-known image, a calla lily, which was displayed at the Golden Gate International Exposition (1939-40) on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay.
At some point in the 1940s, Tasker discontinued his beautiful x-ray photographs of flowers. But he left a legacy of many, many images that we can appreciate 75 years later. An exhibition of Tasker's original photographs is on view at Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla, California through February 19, 2016. It is a stunning show, one that leaves you pondering the conceptual artist-radiologist and swooning over his beautiful images.