Saturday, March 24, 2018

Planet Earth

Portrait of a Planet: Photographer in Space

March 22, 2018 was an unusual day in The University Gallery at Rochester Institute of Technology.  On the walls there is a photography show - unusual even for the land of Kodak, here in Rochester.

Photographer: Donald Pettit

The students and gallery goers had the opportunity to meet the photographer who was really out-of-this- world.  Donald Pettit stood in front of an audience and recalled what it was like to race around planet Earth doing his day job as an astronaut and making a record of the wonders that passed below   on his off hours.  AS the sign says: "Art is an inevitable consequence of being human - even in space"....

Donald Pettit answers questions from earth at R.I.T.

Actually, Pettit didn't always know what was below because he could so easily be turned upside down  in the space craft.  Being up in space, you begin to be struck by the wonder of it all, but having his camera meant that he could create a journal of images, and report on what he has seen.  This show of giant photographic prints gives just a suggestion of some of the miracles of observation ( out of nearly 500,000 images ) that can occur on this kind of voyage.  Here is a point of view most will never experience first hand, and it can be disorienting at first.  Since there is so much digital art out in the world, it is hard to at first believe that this show is REAL..!

Over the Indian sub-continent
by Donald Pettit

While answering questions about what it is like to be an astronaut with a camera, folks in the audience asked what he missed most while being up in space.  His reflection on this was that after you miss your family the most, you get involved in what you are doing - and then you don't want to miss anything that happens on the space ship.  His photos that you see in the show are unique.  The visual events documented here give you a sense of the immensity of the universe we inhabit, just take a look at the image above of the Indian sub-continent and you get the idea.

Blue Moon by Donald Pettit

The photos of this wild world give you a new sense of perspective, and they certainly leave you with a feeling of just how tiny the human being is in the scheme of things.  You want to come back down to earth, then walk upstairs to the William Harris Gallery on the third floor at R.I.T. and look in on a show called "Hiding from Rain".  I found images like a wonderful cloud quilt of photos by Brett Starr.  These cyanotypes made a nice counterpoint to the images of deep space found in The University Gallery.

Cyanotypes from Brett Starr

"Hiding from Rain" presents a set of images from ten different students who each make a separate part of this group show.  They are finishing up this chapter  of their lives and looking forward to the next challenge.  Who knows?  Maybe one day we will see their images when they come back from a voyage in deep space!

Cloud Cyanotypes from Brett Starr
William Harris Gallery at
Rochester Institute of Technology