/22 Outer spaces

Beth Dow

The Dynamic Range

Picture this. You look out on a bright morning where a vast plain spreads before you like a shaken sheet. You know that if you touch the rocks they will feel warm from the sun, and gravel will crunch underfoot as you walk ahead. You have never been here before, yet everything is familiar. This is a landscape you can understand. A fresh slope now rises before you. Knots of grass and mineral dust ripple at your feet. This, too, is a predictable surface. The sun is clear and strong. Past experience moving along the earth informs how you perceive this new terrain, yet something is off. This seemingly ordinary, natural, world might not be your world at all.
The Dynamic Range is an investigation into knowledge, vision, and wonder told through photographic representations of space. The source images for this project were shot in the Badlands of South Dakota, where the terrain has eroded in stark ways that suggest the topography of the moon. I have used simple digital interventions to render landscapes that straddle between earth and space, raising questions about what we know and what we can believe. I have been looking at the various ways we gather and process images of distant surfaces, from official space agency images to the fascinating work of amateur astronomers. I am especially interested in the slippery nature of representation as we struggle to establish documents that purport to be true scientific records.
I have used many different processes to make the prints in The Dynamic Range, including multiple-pass printing of color separations, 3-D anaglyph imagery, simple negative inversions, platinum-palladium, and sculptural elements. I have done this to suggest the breadth of approaches scientists use in their efforts to adequately depict gathered image data.