Photographer Edgar Martins was given the rare opportunity to travel the globe photographing the classified interiors, structures and equipment of the European Space Agency (ESA) and its partner programs, including the lunar, Mars and Mercury exploration programs. He travelled to over 20 locations across the UK, Germany, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Russia, Kazakhstan and French Guiana to produce what is the most comprehensive photographic survey of a space program, documenting the marvels of engineering and scientific research in the process, and one of the world’s greatest exploration programs. The results, shown in his exhibition with the poetic title of ‘The Rehearsal of Space & The Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite’ can be seen at the Wapping Project Bankside until 29 May, along with a book.
The images are truly ‘out of this world’. Many are seemingly mundane laboratories and testing facilities, but Martins has captured them with long exposure, often up to one hour. The images, particularly in the rooms, convey a sense of stillness and serenity, but these belie the activity involved in the research taking place. They retain a sense of the mystery inherent in space exploration, through the very abstractness of ‘strange’ equipment such as circuit boards and space suits lying empty on a shelf, as though they are only sleeping. Many of the images, particularly those of the mobile gantry for the Vega launcher and the mock-up of Node 2 or Harmony from the International Space Station appear like futurist abstract canvases, defining space and form but resembling nothing on Earth.
Edgar Martins’ ‘The Rehearsal of Space & the Poetic Impossibility to Manage the Infinite‘ can be seen at Wapping Project Bankside until 29 May. Admission: Free
All images in this article courtesy of The Wapping Project Bankside, Edgar Martins (edgarmartins.com) and ESA (esa.int).