The great astronomer Carl Sagan said “The cosmos is within us. We are made of star stuff.” He reminds us that the stars, the earth, and our bodies share the same basic building blocks. They come from and return to the same places and return to the same places. So when we gaze at the heavens we see where we came from and what we were, where we are going and what we will be. When we gaze at the land we see where and what we are now. In contemplating both we embrace an expanded view of our place in the universe and ourselves.
Things are usually much richer and more complicated than they seem at first glance. Accustomed by years to my everyday experience I feel solid, stable, and still when I am none of these things – or if seen from another perspective, I am these things only very briefly. I grow dizzy as I think about how fast we’re all moving. The earth spins on its axis at 1000 miles per hour, while it orbits around the sun at 66,000 miles per hour, and the sun whirls around the center of the galaxy at 483,000 miles per hour, and our galaxy hurtles through space at 1.3 million miles per hour. Then I have to settle myself down. It’s all relative. Relative to the 20 times our sun has been around the center of the galaxy, during the span of human history we’ve barely moved. When I stand still, relative to the ground my feet don’t move. To begin to comprehend it, it takes multiple perspectives.
My Constellations search for other perspectives. Combining multiple perspectives into single images and extending them into many, they marry the heavens and the earth, showing the lands that envelope us with the stars that lie behind, around, and within us.
Photography is the supreme explorer of other perspectives. It can show us many things we can’t see with our naked eyes. It can help us see very close or very far away, look from many places simultaneously including those we can’t go to or be in, and even make images of energies we can’t see; empowering many to look in many ways.
Photography is a time machine; it freezes, contracts, and extends time allowing us to see into thin slices of time we are not conscious of or over longer periods of time than we are conscious for, making images of the ephemeral durable and showing us relationships we would not otherwise see. It almost always shows us the past. And when it comes to photographs of the stars, they show us such ancient light that we can be sure than not all of the stars we see still exist as we gaze back in time at them. So much for “Seeing is believing.” I guess believing is much more than seeing. And knowing is more still.
To find our place within the universe we must first find the universe within us. Faced with the almost inconceivable vastness of it all, we might be tempted to feel that we are insignificant. We may be little more than dust. Yet, we are very special dust. A staggeringly unlikely chain of events has led our dust to life and higher consciousness. So far, in the observable universe, we have been unable to find other signs of life much less consciousness. It may exist, in forms we have yet to imagine, but we can say with certainty, it is rare indeed. Sagan concluded, “The beauty of a living thing is not the atoms that go into it but the way those atoms are put together.” And, “We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.” We are tiny miracles born of and sheltered within a much larger miracle. I make these images to celebrate the wonder of it all