In this album I like to share more creative/artistic images, using astrophotografies of mine as elements and inspiration. Some may be more "realistic", and some very abstract. I would also like to share some thoughts on the artistic value of astrophotography in general.
Astrophotography and the Visual Arts:
Having been educated in the appreciation of the visual arts since my youth, and given my innate fascination with astronomy and my aptitude with technology, it was only natural that eventually I would embrace astrophotography.
However, as many others, I have been struggling for some time now with the notion of astrophotography as a form of visual art. Not that I don’t aspire to that categorization, particularly given the evident and universal beauty of the subject, and the emotional response that comes with it. But there are some structural boundaries to the craft that have kept me wondering. It has been called a “technical art”, and part of the debate is reminiscent of the one around traditional photography during the first half of the 20th century, which by now is mostly settled. However, there are some notable differences between both forms of photography. For one, in astrophotography the subject is basically static (with the exception of some solar system events, which are dynamic but mostly repetitive in nature), and the photographer is bound to a single perspective (that from earth). So, from a composition point of view, a key element of traditional photography, the imager is limited to the choice of field-of-view and framing. When it comes to lighting, another key element in traditional photography, astroimagers are powerlessly bound by what the object has to offer, which is also invariant. And then there is the issue of color, possibly the richest and most powerful element that is left in astrophotography, and particularly unbounded given the fact that most of the subjects are invisible to the eye, so there is little a-priori expectation on how they should “look”. Interestingly, likely due to its positivist origin as an observational method in science, the astrophotographer, having to make decisions on how to represent color, self-imposes a rather strict code of aesthetics where the criteria is to fairly and honestly represent “reality”. This is a valuable and honorable principle in and of itself, but it doesn’t do much for creative freedom, so central to any form of visual art. A curious exception to this comes from narrow-band imaging, where certain “unreal” variations are accepted, that mostly emerged from the HST work.
And finally, there is technology. It should be obvious to most involve in this form of photography, that there exists a strong correlation between the sophistication of the technology used to image, and the beauty of the result. It is certainly not a sufficient condition, but it does help a lot more than in any other form of visual art that I can think of. Not that I don’t enjoy the gear, and squeezing the last drop of performance out of it, but to likely consider a painter a better artist solely because he uses better brushes, doesn’t do much for the argument.
An art form or not, I will continue to do and enjoy traditional astrophotography, and at the same time, continue to explore and express the subjective inspired by the objective.
Ignacio Diaz Bobillo
Buenos Aires, September 2011