Within an average week, I look at many different photographs. Some intentionally, others I am exposed too through media, advertising and my work. The range of images varies wildly, but the percentage of those that stick with me is relatively small.
For me, the image that carries gravitas are ones that showcase the living or natural world. My practice in conservation photography leads me to have an eye for images that put their subjects into an unnatural context, in order to convey natural issues.
This week, one of the most striking of these images I have observed has been Israel’s first moon mission spacecraft sending back a selfie of the earth.
This image for me summarizes some very interesting debates within modern photography. Firstly it was taken by a machine, remotely controlled from the earth. Never a more true example of the photographer being very much absent.
The composition of the image champions Israel’s achievements as a space exploration innovator and gives us a modern view of the earth as seen from the craft’s journey to the moon.
But it also carries with it a hidden political message. That being how all of humanity is now developing the ability to travel to the stars. No longer is this the sole domain of the USA or Russia. I feel this is an issue worth celebrating.
I am very much drawn to the presence of this image. Its context shows the earth, part of the apparatus that transports it and it puts the viewer into the perspective of being out of this world.
The image, however, is also very lonely. It shows the isolation of the rover in terms of its distance from human contact and thus isolates the photographer from the rest of the society.
This ‘isolation’ of the photographer is something that resonates with me, as more often than not, the photographer is always hidden from view. Out of reach of the subject in front of the lens.
This image of the earth is natural but it does have constructed elements – in that it is also carrying a positive political message. This has been done through the clear branding and ownership of the image. It is very much a record of achievement as much as it is a celebration of human achievement. It also pushes the realms of photography further into the world of machine and AI.
The question is, how long until photographers themselves are absent from behind the camera?
- Fig 1 – SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) (2019) (image source)