Barry W. Hughes orbits science, astronomy and philosophy in his photographic series 'Near Earth Object Program' to tell untold stories of humanity
Barry W. Hughes’s photographic series 'NEOP' (Near Earth Object Program) discloses a visionary universe where science, cosmology and philosophy collide, entailing an unusual and imaginative journey. Starting from glimpses of reality and quoting the scientific evidence (which can be calculated, detected, analysed and compared), Hughes’s stories reach far, up to the immeasurable where the unknown, the ungraspable and the fragility of humanity can be sensed.
The images of the NEOP are capsule-stories at the threshold of human experience; they extend back in time to the earth’s formation and far out into space where asteroids, meteors and unidentified objects are observed by powerful telescopes. "They are safety surveillance apparatus from NASA, which collect information from all the observatories around the globe in order to monitor objects approaching the Earth from space,” Hughes explains. “For a long time I had an interest in astronomy and in the history of understanding our environment as a planet. At the same time my artistic practice has evolved into talking about photography through photography itself. I see my work as a unification of two cosmos; the one I am part of and the other being my artistic universe; my means of communicating and enquiring about our existence."
Hughes explores the possibilities of the photographic language by acutely playing upon and forcing its grammar and syntax; many NEOP images are created by falsehoods. The portrayed scenes are technical wizardry, perfectly twisted perceptions simulating an objective truth. A fake rock has been cast in concrete to resemble a moon sample in the absence of colour. A photo taken from a flying plane has a magnified detail mimicking a scientific investigation of an unidentified object. A blue light is digitally subtracted from the original photographic set to create a dreamlike golden metallic object.
"These technical tricks bring you close to the idea that photography can never tell you the absolute truth; it is all about interpretation", says Hughes, "and even further, it relates to the fact that we don¹t know everything. I like to play with the perception of colours, with the notion of danger, with the fact that we see but we don¹t really know what we are looking at; the science and the information we gather is never really total proof".
This is where the abstract field of imagination reveals itself and reveries thrive. Humans are born storytellers; the mist of human prehistory has influenced the most sophisticated knowledge today, in the same way that our neurons are a direct consequence of cosmic dust. A chimera is acted out in Hughes’ NEOP series, telling tales that orbit between truth and fiction, linking the faraway past with an unknown future.
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