S5 payload preparation complex – spacecraft fuelling bay, CSG-Europe’s Spaceport, Kourou (French Guiana), C-print, 120x150cm, 2014
We think we know what space exploration looks like, but a big part of that idea comes from popular culture and in particular from fictional representations. I’m dimly aware that I tend to compare visions of space to movies which have had a formative influence on me, almost judging the value of science fact by how far it correlates with the visuals of science fiction.
On a visual level Edgar Martins’ The Rehearsal of Space and The Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite had me from first glance. These large, beautiful prints capture the strange geometry of the high-tech facilities of the European Space Agency (ESA), with whom Martin undertook a two year residency. From a vacuum chamber in the Netherlands to a rocket gantry in French Guiana, Martins’ camera reveals this normally unseen world with the stark clarity for which he is well known. As well as documenting massive structures and sterile labs, he also focuses in on smaller details with similar precision, capturing a moon rock encased in resin and an astronaut’s empty glove reaching skyward.
As the title suggests these photographs aren’t really about space travel, but about its preparation and anticipation. It’s easy to forget that as the complexity of human endeavour increases, the resources required to support these undertakings grow exponentially. For the handful of astronauts who will leave the earth’s atmosphere there are thousands of support staff and dozens of facilities scattered across the globe. The man or woman sealed in a capsule atop a rocket is like the invisibly fine point of a very long spear.
NIRSpec Flight Model Assembly at ISO Class 5 Integration Facility, ADS, Ottobrunn-Munich (Germany), C-print, 120x150cm, 2014