The Blue of the Far Distance

Emilia Martin

2021 - Ongoing

Netherlands; Poland

“The blue of the Far Distance” is a story I've been working on since the beginning of 2021.

I looked up towards the stars ever since I remember.

I can barely name a few constellations and sometimes I confuse satellites (or even planes) for the cosmic planets. Yet stargazing has brought me comfort whenever life felt too narrow. I believe it to be a natural human act to look up and not down while looking for the answers, while wondering or seeking distance. An act that feels almost as natural and instinctive as breathing, and yet happens to be threatened by the highest and growing levels of light pollution, a symptom of the era of capitalism.

Stargazing is inherently escapist, and escapism is the main lead I follow throughout this story. I see escapism as a common thread where my fascination meets with the ones of the protagonists I come across throughout this journey. There is a meet a man who built a planetarium in his living room in order to keep sane during his son's deadly illness. An astrophotographer who through his observations of the sky discovered over hundred planetoids. The observatory club of retired men in one of the most light polluted city in the world, who regardless of the light conditions meet every Friday to look through the telescope.

"Finding this place is just like stargazing. You can look up once or twice and all you see is some splashed stars and not much else, but once you start really looking, really paying careful attention, you discover some things that are hidden, things that are truly special, maybe the things that nobody has ever seen before. This place is exactly like this"

Through all the encounters and many more, I realised, that as I look through my camera lens and as they gaze into space, we all look for the same thing: an escape, hope and sense of connection.

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  • "Under my feet"

    With this image removed from its original context and placed in the new one I introduce the naive vision of the night sky. It is reversed, off, out of its place.

  • "The Astronaut"

    As a child I dreamed about becoming an astronaut. As a girl growing up in the post communist Poland it never felt like an option realistic enough to be taken seriously. I am now wondering, what would my grandmother said if I announced to her back then that I am planning on going to space?
    I now live in times when space travel feels much more realistic and achievable, yet it remains to be completely dominated by white Western men.
    In this photograph I am playing with my own nostalgic memories, but I am also introducing a child into a role of an astronaut, posing questions of who goes into space, and why.

  • "The sky"

    Through an act of painting on the camera negative I am playing with the idea of reality and fiction. Due to constantly increasing levels of light pollution night skies have become dull and starless. The image is a visual play on the idea of "what if".

  • "Dear Eise, "

    Eise Eisinga built the oldest fully functioning mechanical planetarium on the ceiling of his one bedroom apartment he shared with his wife and children. It took him over seven years of work he was doing after his day job.

  • "Self portrait"

    Playing with the idea of light pollution, invisibility but also fiction I took this self portrait. It is important to me to include myself in the story and to recognise my active role in forming it and therefore questioning and investigating the role of a photographer.

  • "The Pin"

    Jan made some black coffee and asked me how did I find the planetarium.
    "finding this place is just like stargazing" he said
    "You can look up once or twice and all you see is some splashed stars and not much else, but once you start really looking, really paying careful attention, you discover some things that are hidden, things that are truly special, maybe the things that nobody has ever seen before. This place is exactly like this"

  • "What dreams did Eise dream?"

    Eise Eisinga planetarium is running on a very advanced clock-like analogue mechanism.
    Eise placed the important part of its mechanism above the bed, where his and his wife's heads were. The long metal chain was hanging down from the ceiling, moving slowly, as the planets moved. The wife had problems with sleeping with the chain hanging just above her face and after seven years of construction she demanded a change, which required a lot of effort.

    It is one of the very few anecdotes from the life of Eise Eisinga that mentions his wife, the one he was married to throughout the whole course of the planetarium construction time.

  • "Clear sky and no clouds"

    Through an act of painting on the camera negative I am playing with the idea of reality and fiction. Due to constantly increasing levels of light pollution night skies have become dull and starless. The image is a visual play on the idea of challenging this narrative.

  • "Chris's ceiling"

    Chris took two years to design and build his fully mechanised ceiling planetarium.
    After he explained to me the technicalities behind the construction he brewed some coffee and said:
    "to be honest with you, I don't really care about the astronomy. In fact my son was very seriously ill, he could have died, and so I could either drink a bottle of wine every night, or make this".

  • "Necks bent backwards"

    Sebastian is looking up, facing the sky full of stars impossible to see with a naked eye. The image is a collage that through the use of fiction challenges the reality.

  • "Tiny parts of the bigger thing"

    I am fascinated with astronomical antique objects. They were usually designed to serve the scientific community, often built by the scientists themselves who best understood the mechanisms behind such constructions. Yet the objects like the one on the photograph are far from being merely functional. The use of paint and the overall aesthetics bears the resemblance of the religious antiques, found in churches. It is not an accident - early astronomers usually had roles that were beyond scientific - they were royal astrologists believed to have an insight into the future, religious-like figures.

  • "The Complicated Mechanisms"

    I see the intricate construction behind the Eise Eisinga mechanical planetarium as a metaphor of a constructed world.

  • "The farm"

    The planetarium was hidden behind the henhouses. I walked towards it and accidentally scared the turkeys away, running in panic in all directions. It stood there like it could be any other farm building, only instead of animals, it was home to an entire universe.


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