A Field Guide to the Stars

2017 | curatorial project | exhibition at the Ballarat astronomical observatory | part of the core program of the Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Australia

How do humans understand and imagine outer space? What technologies have shaped and expanded these perceptions of scale, distance and time? A Field Guide to the Stars pairs artworks and archival materials to explore how photography and related media operate within our shifting awareness of the cosmos.

Photography and astronomy have an intrinsic relationship, evidenced by technical advances and the collective imagination of space. For instance, photographs of the moon’s surface, including those in this exhibition from Lunar Orbiter V (1967), were crucial to making the 1969 moon landing possible. Whereas widely circulated and aesthetically compelling images of space, like nebulae captured from the Hubble Space Telescope, elicit curiosity and wonder in non-scientists. Astronomical observatories and archives bring together scientific evidence and the fanciful unknown, making them sites of discovery that hold cultural, historical, and symbolic weight. As a collection of astronomical photography and historical, scientific ephemera combined with contemporary photo-artistic practices, A Field Guide to the Stars explores the human impulse to orientate ourselves within the expanding universe.

participating artists:
Clare Benson
Alex Cherney
Kate Golding
Kate Robertson
Hillary Wiedmann
Eric William Carroll
Rebecca Najdowski

download PDF of catalog - includes essay by Colin Edgington

Give Them Distance

2017 | digital video and acrylic mirror, wood, and photograph on wallpaper sculptures

Give Them Distance explores how we comprehend the cosmos and our place within it. Created from hundreds of slides discarded by a university Earth and Planetary Science department, the looped video animates a journey from Earth, through the solar system and space, returning to our planet via fallen meteorites. Juxtaposed with the cycling slide images, droning and degraded audio captured from Walt Disney’s 1979 super-8 sci-fi film “The Black Hole” provides a hypnotic rhythm. Give them Distance considers the idea that we have come to know the collectively-imagined cosmos through photomedia and sci-fi films. In this piece, outmoded visual and audio representations of earth and space reveal a cultural and material patina. The video, through its coupling of an unavoidable wearing down with cosmic expanse, attempts to point to the paradoxical coexistence of entropy and the infinite.

01:00 min preview of 03:05 min video.

Desert Pictures

2014 - ongoing | c-print photograms, digital video, gelatin silver solar prints, acrylic and light sculpture

Desert Pictures explores the notion of landscape through a series of images, objects and photo-driven experiments. Informed by a lifetime of adventures in the deserts of the Southwestern United States, this work considers how desert environments are imaged and framed: can the spatial, perceptual, temporal, biological, and chemical of a place be embodied photographically? By focusing on optics, light, minerals, surface, time, and chemical and digital interactions this project incorporates these essential components of photography and video-imaging in order to reveal the conditions of representation. Desert Pictures was made in collaboration with the desert environment using minerals, rain, and the sun. A variety of approaches explore the materiality of analogue and digital media to suggest alternative ways to represent the multifaceted aspects of an environment, expanding the representation of environment far beyond the traditions of pictorial landscape photography.

Desert Pictures was developed during a fellowship at the Center for Creative Photography and works from this series are now part of their permanent collection.

The video untitled (sun) engages with the idea of landscape representation through unconventional manipulations of imaging media. In the mid-day brightness of Northern Mexico, a digital camera was pointed directly at the sun, purposely causing overexposure of the image’s individual pixels. The chromatic aberrations caused by the malfunction of the camera’s sensor reveal the aesthetic possibilities of failure, depicting the sun as an ever-changing column of light, fringed with green and purple radiations. This sensor ‘bloom’ transforms the image of the sun while exposing the medium’s limits of representation.


2012 | documentation of an augmented reality intervention at White Sands, New Mexico, US.

Octahedron is a collaborative project with designer Steve Pacheco. An Augmented Reality (AR) art intervention, it creates an interplay between dimensions of the visible and invisible through geo-positioned digital layers within the landscape of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. AR technology uses a special browser on smartphones and tablets that allows the device to “see” previously invisible digital layers, it conjures up additional, floating objects within a real space. Using Annie Bessant and CW Leadbeater’s 1901 publication “Thought-forms” as a starting point, the project explores their notion that conscious energy can manifest in a 3-D form. The aim is that an encounter with the intervention will blur the distinction between visible/invisible, past/future, object/experience, and thought/form.

Above / Below

2013 | light installation

Above/Below is a primitive planetarium that shifts with the presence of the audience Viewer’s shadows and projected light collide to create a mutable space. The installation consists of six overhead projectors on the floor of a darkened room. On each sits a sheet of aluminum foil with hundreds of tiny holes. These function as apertures, projecting light passing through to create an array of ‘stars’ on the ceiling and walls. Above/Below references both the prehistoric conception of stars as punctures in the mythological fabric of a night sky as well as the camera obscura, a darkened room in which the ‘outside’ is revealed on the interior walls.


2012 | digital video | 02:30

Wander chronicles a road trip through the American West. Upon encountering various objects happened upon dusty roads and at highway rest-stops, a photo was made with instant film camera. A video camera was then used to record the photographic image as it slowly appeared. Wander is a grid of moments depicting time in analog; it is a meditation on photographic duration, which can feel unfamiliar in a digital world.