Art makes stars out of astronomers
Saturday 03 November 2012
Stretching backwards, his limbs at all angles and his face bathed in concentrated sunlight, Detrick Branston is testing which filter to use for safely looking at the sun during the annular eclipse in the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, earlier this year.
I photographed him during the month’s residency at NOAO (National Optical Astronomy Observatory). I was there as the first part of a project I am sharing with Jane Grisewood to make sense of astronomy and astronomers through the lens of contemporary art. The second part will be to go to the Cerro Tololo Observatory in the foothills of the Andes in the Atacama Desert, Chile, in three weeks’ time.
I photographed the astronomers at work and generally they were rooted both in their offices and in the observatories, looking at a computer screen, rather than through the lens of a telescope, or, as here, protecting their eyes from the blinding glare of direct, magnified, sunlight. All were dedicated to ideals of education and research, but most of all to a vision of a still mysterious universe, which challenged them to understand it a little better, on a mountain top, on the Tohono O’odham Native American reservation.
A limited-edition artist’s book made from some of the material gathered won the Birgit Skiold Award for Excellence. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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