This week, I took time to visit The Drawing Room and The Photographers’ Gallery to attend the exhibition “Double Take”. The exhibition draws inspiration from William Henry Fox Talbot’s “Pencil of Nature” and refers to the gesture, which can be found in both drawing and photography. “Double Take” gave me an opportunity to reflect on my drawings with celestial light.
In my last post Meteotypes, I explored how celestographs can be created with meteorites – matter originating from outside of Planet Earth.
In today’s post, I’d like to begin a conversation about celestial light drawings, or what I call celestographs. In the gallery above I have experimented with three different types of celestial light drawings / celestographs.
- In the first image, reflected light from the Moon has been used to create a gestural drawing, and in this case the drawing is directed by my own movement of the camera.
- In the second, I have created a solargraph, a long exposure pinhole camera which has been pointed in the direction of the Sun for a duration of three weeks. The resultant image shows the Suns’ movement through the landscape, here the Sun has burned its impression on to the photosensitive paper.
- In the third image, a stationary camera was pointed towards a sky full of stars. Over an exposure of seven minutes, the Earth turns on its axis by a small fraction and the stars seem to draw perfect lines in the sky, with varying degrees of whites and greys depending on the distance and brightness of each individual star. This technique is often called a “star trail photograph” in the field of astrophotography.
- Elsewhere in The Photographers’ Gallery, I was surprised to find a star trail / celestial light drawing by Trevor Paglen in the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation Prize .
This image uses the same “star trail” technique, but in this image Paglen is specifically interested in the geostationary satellites, the unblurred dots between the star trails. Here, Paglen comments on the intense levels of surveillance that we are blissfully unaware of.
These star trails and solargraphs are often thought of as a cliche, but why is this?
These star trail images make use of technology that has taken over 150 years to refine, and display light emitted from objects that we have only just begun to understand, due to their immense distance.
In “Celestial Drift”, Carnie-Bronca has chosen a setting on his digital camera which takes multiple shots over a period of time. To create an image such as this, it is necessary to take multiple shots of the stars moving through the landscape. Left as a continual exposure, the light coming from the stars would over-expose the image and obscure important details, such as the wispy blue and orange detail in the sky. Instead, the images have been amalgamated in to one image using computer software such as StarStaX. The movement of the stars through the sky is recorded over a sustained period, but with fragmented jolts through time. As this image is a composite photograph, I am left wondering whether this image could be defined as a “Celestial Light Drawing”. Is a composite digital photograph any less of a light drawing than my solargraph? These are questions I will be attempting to answer over the next couple of months.