In the mid-1800s, English astronomer and chemist John Herschel was in possession of something that seemed truly impossible: a photograph of a moon crater.
It was incredible enough that Herschel had a photograph of anything — the medium was just invented in 1824. And, even more astounding, Herschel had seemingly brought the new technology to another celestial body. Of course, the crater was actually made of papier-mâché and clay. But, given the fact that the first flight to space was more than 100 years away, Herschel’s constructed image was remarkably realistic.
Paying homage to this groundbreaking photograph and the mystery, aspiration and technical achievement it represents, Belmont University’s Gallery 121 presents “Analogue Landscapes: Beyond the Lunar Vision,” an exhibition of photos from artists Mark Schoon and Casey McGuire running until October 4, 2019.
“Inspired by Sir John Herschel’s iconic … images depicting a recreation of the moon’s surface, ‘Analogue Landscapes: Beyond the Lunar Vision’ is a monochromatic photographic exhibition exploring various aspects of the real, the artificial and the unattainable,” according to a press release from the gallery.
Some works in the collection, like First Steps, appear to be straight from NASA’s archives — an actual photograph of a footprint on the moon’s surface taken by the astronaut who made it. But, like Herschel’s photograph of more than 150 years ago, the images were crafted to recreate a scientific marvel here on earth. First Steps is an archival pigment print, or giclée, an image that’s been digitally printed on an inkjet printer using archival pigment inks. In this way, it mixes the modern and historic not only in its subject matter, but in its very fabric.
“These images were realized through the creation of three-dimensional sculptures for the purposes of making photographic prints,” per the gallery. “As such, they at times reference lunar models, Apollo era images and telescopic astrophotography in an attempt to bridge the gap between historic and modern modes of scientific representation while re-contextualizing and bringing them into a contemporary vernacular.”
Even today, when actual photographs and even video footage from the surface of the moon is available, these recreated images still capture an enigmatic, alien quality that is as palpable as it was in Herschel’s time. And, because they are not actual scientific documentation, their artifice makes interesting comments on the technical process of photography in relation to the space age and beyond as well as photographs as an artistic medium that “brings” us to places we could never go.
Schoon and McGuire are based in Georgia. Schoon holds a master’s in photography from Ohio University and his photographs have been collected by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. McGuire holds a master’s in fine arts in sculpture from the University of Colorado, Boulder and her installations have been exhibited in Michigan, Texas and Colorado.
Belmont University’s Gallery 121 is located in the Leu Center for the Visual Arts, 1989 Belmont Blvd.