photo of the moon
Penelope Umbrico, Still photograph of Everyone’s Moon 2015-11-04 14:22:59, 2015.
Culture

50 Stellar Photos of Outer Space

For the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this weekend, curator Jon Feinstein selected a collection of images capturing deep space fantasies.
July 18, 2019, 11:00am

This Saturday marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Its spectacle is cause for celebration, and it's featured in dozens of exhibitions ranging from photography-based Apollo's Muse: The Moon in the Age of Photography curated by Mia Fineman at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and By The Light of the Silvery Moon: A Century of Lunar Photographs at the National Gallery, to the memorabilia-focused traveling exhibition Destination Moon at the Museum of Flight outside of Seattle. After curating my own low-fi exhibition Deep Space Laundry, up through the end of July at Washer Dryer Projects—a laundry room basement gallery in Salt Lake City, Utah—it seemed fitting to bring the participating artists (and a few others) together into a visual feature on outer space.

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The majority of the artists shown here use photography to approach outer space through cultural and media-soaked representations of the interstellar. Some artists, like Amelia Bauer and Cassandra Klos, use desert landscapes as stand-ins for imagined territories you might see in films like Star Trek, Flash Gordon, or The Martian. While it might look like Mars, it's just some rocky terrain in New Mexico or Utah. Similarly, Joy Drury Cox’s photos of oil stains on parking lot concrete resemble the surface of the moon. Artists Azikiwe Mohammed, Djeneba Aduayom, and Jacque Njeri reference Afro-futurist movements extending from the early 1990s through today's Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther and beyond, which see African Diaspora and liberation through a lens of science fiction and technology. And then there's the absurdism of Jacob Haupt's hilariously cartoonish and obviously faked image of a spandex-clad "astronaut" being shot into space while giving the thumbs up.

Others, like Penelope Umbrico, whose work is also included in the exhibition at The Met, use space photography—specifically amateur images of the sun and the moon appropriated from Flickr and assembled together in large scale grids—to understand universal themes that unite people around the world. While this collection of images is unlikely to unlock the secrets of the galaxy, the future of space travel, or how to discern a certain president's May, 2019 tweet that the moon is part of Mars, it serves as an entertaining and sometimes critical extension into what lies above and beyond.

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You can to explore these artists' work deeper by visiting their websites and Instagram feeds, which are linked below.

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