For The Eye of Photography, photographic books are as important as an exhibition or a portfolio. They make the history and the news of the medium. Our correspondent Zoé Isle de Beauchaine takes a tirelessly curious and informed look at the latest releases.
For several years, Caroline Corbasson has been observing the sky and space through drawing, sculpture and video. Inspired by astronomical instruments, the French artist attempts to answer universal questions about the place of Man in the universe. She published Heat at Area books, a poetic diversion of forgotten space archives, conducted with the photographer Andrea Montano.
In 2019, during a residency at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, Caroline Corbasson discovered a box filled with negatives, prints and observation glass plates dating from the 1950s to the 1990s. Destined to be destroyed or thrown away, they finally reached her a few months later.
This was the beginning of an experimental project involving the printing of these black and white negatives, to which the Corbasson-Montano duo decided to add colours. These colours, which evoke the extreme temperatures of space, vary from red, the colour of the coldest planets, often in decline, to blue, which indicates heat at its peak.
The book is built around this thermal and chromatic variation. The archives of the Marseilles laboratory unfold over the pages, punctuated by red, pink, purple and blue sheets. Devoid of captions, these images of constellations or stardust disturb our sense of scale, never letting us know for sure what we are looking at. From scientific documents, they become abstract works of great aesthetic and poetic force.
While working on this series, Caroline Corbasson discovered the practice of silver printing, which turned out to resonate with her interest in the cosmos: “What’s interesting about the lab is being in complete darkness. You have to memorise every move and the location of every element. I had the rather mystical impression of being in space.”
The appearance of the print in the developer echoes the discovery by scientists, and then the public, of a new image sent by telescopes from space. This is certainly the effect that these archives had in their time. Transformed by Caroline Corbasson and Andrea Montano into superb visual poems, they are also a tribute to the pioneering work of Marseille’s astronomers since the 1960s.
Caroline Corbasson and Andrea Montano – Heat
Published by Area Books, 2023
320 x 240mm
Text: Luce Lebart
Editorial direction: Bureau Kayser
Graphic design: Syndicat
Translation: Jeffrey Zucherman
Published with the support of the Antoine de Galbert Foundation
Available in bookshops and online