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History Photography

Orbital Planes: A New Photography Book by Roland Miller Documents the Final Years of NASA's Shuttle Program

October 6, 2021

Christopher Jobson

Commander’s Console, Space Shuttle Endeavor, Orbiter Processing Facility 2, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Fine art photographer Roland Miller (previously) has been documenting America’s space program for more than 30 years, obtaining exclusive access to the interior spaces of orbiters and rockets, as well as manufacturing, testing, and launch facilities around the United States. The Utah-based photographer has captured a singular vision of the space program with a hybrid of abstract and documentary imagery, from macro details of fabricated elements to spectacular shuttle launches at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In his newest book Orbital Planes, Miller focuses entirely on the waning years of NASA’s shuttle program, a project he embarked on starting in 2008. More than just documentation of the machine’s construction or photographs of pivotal launches, though, his work is an artistic interpretation of the shuttle program in its entirety. Miller shares:

Along with the images in the book are my accounts of interactions with the Space Shuttle program and its personnel. I approached this subject in the a hybrid style of documentary and abstract imagery to tell a more complete story. […] Orbital Planes is the result of that photography work. My hope is that Orbital Planes will give the reader their own personal view of the Space Shuttle and the technology and facilities that helped it fly.

Orbital Planes will be published in 2022, and Miller is supporting the project with a Kickstarter that includes a variety of signed prints found in the book. You can follow more of his work on Instagram.

 

ISS Airlock and Hatch, Space Shuttle Discovery, Orbiter Processing Facility 1, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Discovery Label, Space Shuttle Discovery, Vehicle Assembly Building, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Fuselage Flag and Wing, Space Shuttle Discovery, Vehicle Assembly Building ,NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

External Tank and SRB Frustum, Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-125, Launch Pad 39A, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Launch Belly View, Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-133, Launch Pad 39A, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

RSS Rolled Back, Space Shuttle Discovery, STS-133, Launch Pad 39A, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

STATES, Space Shuttle Atlantis, STS-135, Final Rollover, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

 

 



Documentary History

A Heartening Documentary Follows the Community Harvesting Ice in Minnesota's North Woods

September 22, 2021

Grace Ebert

Each winter in Ely, Minnesota, a crew treks out onto a frozen lake to cut hefty blocks of ice from its surface. They haul the thick chunks to storage, where they’re stacked, covered in sawdust, and preserved for use the rest of the year, a once-necessary method of refrigeration rarely applied today. Consisting of dozens of people, some who have been dedicated to the cause for decades and others who joined in the last year or two, the team engages in the age-old practice of harvesting the frozen blocks at the property of legendary explorer and preservationist Will Steger.

Produced by Gravity Films and directed by Nathaniel Schmidt, “Ice Ball” follows the crew throughout two seasons as they endure below freezing temperatures, a typical condition for Minnesota winters that made filming extra challenging, at the explorer’s sustainable enclave in the North Woods. The short documentary spotlights the community that’s gathered around Steger since his Arctic expeditions and chronicles their devotion to more sustainable ways of living.

As the disastrous effects of the climate crisis accelerate, historic methods like the ice harvest reduce the reliance on carbon-based energy sources and offer an urgent alternative. “All of the ice shelves that I’ve traveled on in the polar regions, north and south, they’re not there anymore. We’re at this crisis now, the human race and the planet. We’re going to have to innovate out of it, and this is what it’s about,” Steger says.

According to Short of the Week, Schmidt is currently working on a feature-length documentary about the life of a Wiradjuri woman. It’s slated for release next August, and in the meantime, you can find more of his work on Vimeo.

 

 

 



Art History

The Exhausted Subject of a Newly Attributed Van Gogh Sketch Embodies All of Us Right Now

September 21, 2021

Grace Ebert

“Study for ‘Worn Out,'” around November 24, 1882, pencil on paper, 48.8 x approximately 30 centimeters. Courtesy of Van Gogh Museum

Hunched over with his face hidden in his palms, the weary subject of a sketch recently attributed to Vincent van Gogh (previously) embraces the collective spirit of 2021. The uncannily prescient drawing, titled “Study for ‘Worn Out,'” dates back to 1882 during an early period of the Dutch artist’s life when he spent time in The Hague. A recurring model, the exhausted, elderly man was a resident at the Dutch Reformed Almshouse for Men and Women, a place van Gogh frequented when looking for subjects. “In drawings like these, the artist not only displayed his sympathy for the socially disadvantaged—no way inferior in his eyes to the well-to-do bourgeoisie,” a statement said. “He actively called attention to them, too.”

As its name suggests, the relatable pencil drawing is a preliminary rendering for van Gogh’s recognizable “Worn Out” and is also reminiscent of the lithograph “At Eternity’s Gate.” The piece is a unique find in the artist’s oeuvre considering his stature, and it follows the discovery of a bookmark in June that was hidden for more than a century.

“Study for ‘Worn Out'” is on view at the Van Gogh Museum through January 2, 2022, when it will be returned to the anonymous private collector who brought it to the Amsterdam institution to confirm its authenticity.

 

 



Art History

Archaeologists Uncover Children's Hand and Foot Prints in What's Thought to Be the Oldest Cave Art To Date

September 16, 2021

Grace Ebert

Image via Science Bulletin

A series of hand and foot impressions uncovered in the Quesang village in the Tibetan Plateau might rewrite the art-historical timeline. According to an article published this month in Science Bulletin, researchers believe the ancient prints were made between 169,000 and 226,000 years ago and appear to be placed intentionally, cementing the notion that they’re the earliest examples of cave art yet to be uncovered. 

Of course, there’s plenty of debate over whether these impressions are art, although archaeologists arguing for the categorization are staking their claims on intent. “​It is the composition, which is deliberate, the fact the traces were not made by normal locomotion, and the care taken so that one trace does not overlap the next,” geologist Matthew Bennett told Gizmodo, rejecting the idea that the prints are a byproduct of common movement like walking or grasping nearby material for stabilization. If the impressions are considered art, they predate the prehistoric figurative findings in both Sulawesi and Lasceaux, which date back about 43,900 and 17,000 years, respectively.

Fossilized on a piece of limestone called travertine, the size and variances of the prints also indicate that they were made by two children. Archaeologists theorize that the indentations, which include five feet and five hands, were placed in mud near the Quesang Hot Spring before it compacted under pressure, or lithified, preserving the duo’s pieces in the hardened material for millennia. Although the research team isn’t sure that the creators were Homo sapiens—the timeline also aligns with the Denisovans, an extinct species from the hominin group that primarily occupied what’s now Asia—if they were, they were likely 7 and 12 years old.

 

 

 



Design History Photography

Architectural Shots Frame the Stately Modern Designs of Churches Across Europe

August 25, 2021

Grace Ebert

Saint-Martin de Donges, France (Jean Dorian, 1957). All images © Thibaud Poirier, shared with permission

French photographer Thibaud Poirier continues his Sacred Spaces series by capturing the modern architecture of dozens of temples across Europe. Similar to earlier images, Poirier uses the same focal point of the front pulpit and pews in all of the photographs, allowing easy comparisons between the colors, motifs, and structural details of each location. “I selected these spaces for the use of original materials, modern for their time in sacred architecture, like steel, concrete, as well as large aluminum and glass panels,” he tells Colossal. Because travel has been limited due to COVID-19, Poirier has mostly visited 20th- and 21st-century churches in France, Germany, and the Netherlands for Sacred Spaces II, although he plans to expand his range in the coming months. Keep an eye out for those shots on Behance and Instagram.

 

Saint-Rémy de Baccarat, Baccarat, France (Nicolas Kazis, 1957)

St. Johann von Capistran, Munich, Germany (Sep Ruf, 1960)

United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel, Colorado Springs (Walter Netsch, 1962)

Saint Ignatius, Tokyo, Japan (Sakakura Associates, 1999)

Cathédrale de la Résurrection, Evry, France (Mario Botta, 1999)

Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur, Montrouge, France (Erik Bagge, 1940)

Notre-Dame-du-Travail, Paris, France (Jule-Godefroy Astruc, 1902)

 

 



Food History

An Ancient Snack Bar Lined with Elaborate Frescoes Opens in Pompeii

August 11, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images via Pompeii Sites

The ancient thermopolium (aka hot food stand) that archaeologists unearthed in Pompeii late last year opens to the public this week. Showing the extent of the snack bar’s impeccable preservation—much of its structure, equipment, and vibrant decorations remain intact—new photos from the Regio V site offer a rare glimpse into life in the Italian city that was buried by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Elaborate, colorful frescoes depicting on-menu fare like chickens and hanging mallards line the L-shaped bar, with an array of large, earthenware vessels scattered around the space. Embedded within the counter are storage wells called dolia that would have held warm dishes and drinks like wine, duck, fava beans, a paella-style dish of pork, goat, bird, fish, and snail, remnants of which were found last year. According to a release from the site, middle- and lower-class residents rarely cooked at home and were the likely patrons of this small spot, which was one of nearly 80 around the city.

Although this thermopolium originally was discovered back in 2019, archaeologists didn’t return to resume excavation until 2020. Starting August 12, visitors are welcome to stop by every day between noon and 7 p.m., and you can watch the video below for a closer look at the relic. (via The History Blog)