People have been photographing the heavens ever since the invention of the daguerreotype. Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, and Minor White all, at one point or other, turned their cameras upward. But the field of astrophotography — which includes everything from images of deep space objects and nebulae to landscapes of the sun or moon — has still been generally viewed as a scientific one.
A new exhibition at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is helping to change that perception. Starstruck: The Fine Art of Astrophotography is one of the first exhibitions to treat the genre as fine art. The show features 100 jaw-dropping images of the skies by 35 international artists, including Michael Benson, Linda Connor, Robert Gendler, Sharon Harper, David Malin, Hans-Christian Schink and Jacqueline Woods. From terrestrial views to colorful auroras, their images capture the vast miracle of the universe.
Anthony Shostak, who originally organized the exhibition at the Bates College Museum of Art, told Hyperallergic that a major factor separating astrophotography-as-art from astrophotography-as-science is that the latter is typically beholden to the strictures of the project, whereas an artist is able to freely communicate his or her artistic vision. “A lucky scientist might get an hour of camera time with the Hubble Space Telescope, but an artist can collect light for as many hours as necessary — which could mean hundreds,” he said. Scientists are also ultimately more concerned about data, whereas artists focus on composition, color, and concept.
“I hope Starstruck sparks sufficient interest in the genre that these artists’ works gain further recognition elsewhere,” Shostak said, “and that it urges viewers to take steps to protect and preserve the precious resource of the night sky so that we may continue to be inspired, mystified, and challenged by the stars.”