Exhibition: The History of Space Photography
At the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena
Through May 6
The expansive exhibition was curated by Jay Belloli with consulting assistance from the Jet Propulsion Lab (affiliate of NASA). The genre of space photography calls back to some of the media's earliest intentions- to record the world for science. The exhibition presents 150 images and three projections that reveal the majesty of our celestial world and raise questions about artistic intent.
A bulk of the images are from our own back yard, and present lush views of Earth taken by satellites and rockests, others turn outward and show the sun and our neighboring planets, or even spacecraft in mission. A near equal number of images depict the beyond- deep space. Strange and fascinating views offer close-ups that seem to compress time; we gaze at a print that seems to have traveled time and history to appear before us. An image of the Heliz Nebula for example, a constellation frist spotted by the 2nd century astronomer Ptolemy, dignifies our far-reaching fascination and satisfies our gaze as it causes us to thirst again for the beyond. In the same moment as we experience awe we are taken aback by a government decision earlier this year to end space exploration. The torch has been taken up again by the few, private companies, but we experience a sense of loss all the same. The vicarious sharing of accomplishment will not be experienced by us all.
As we move onward through the exhibition we come across a more sentimental and literally human experience of image-making. John Herschel's 1839 shot of his 40-inch telescope speaks to the world before space travel as does David Gill's "The Great Comet of 1882," which offers a view of a fireball in the night sky from Cape Town. Historic shots affirm and bring us beyond: Edward Hubble's 1923 telescopic proof of space past our home galaxy, and John Glenn's snapshot of the Georgia coastline through the window of his orbital spacecraft allows us for a moment to experience his view.
This seemingly simple survey traces more than the history of the Space Photography genre, it actually opens the lid on a few interesting questions. We come away considering a bit of heavy baggage- the need for exploration itself, the inevitable existence of new horizons, and the end of a national space era. Additional questions relate to authorship and intent; many of the images were not taken by man, rather machine. What is their relevance, their significance? Are they art, science, evidence? Where and how do they fit in the spectrum of image making, or are they in a class of their own?
For more information on the exhibition please visit the Art Center College of Design
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