For over ten years Vincent Fournier has been traveling to sites around the world related to space exploration in search of astonishing shots: space suits, control rooms, simulations… This panoply of images that showing a world unto itself is on display in Los Angeles.
He had to persevere. “My parents nicknamed me ‘Idéfix’,” Vincent Fournier recalls with a smile. He put out all the stops to get his foot in the door of space centers around the world, which eventually welcomed the photographer’s project. It has been some time now that Fournier has been touring these curious sites created with a view to space conquest. He planted his tripod in French Guiana; on Spitsbergen in Norway; in various NASA centers around the United States; at the Yuri Gagarin training center in Russia; as well as the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan… The list continues. “Only China remains impenetrable. I was only allowed shortly to photograph a museum,” says the photographer, hoping one day to shed some light on the Chinese theater of operations.
Vincent Fournier’s images are carefully staged: no photograph feels fabricated; rather, they are canny compositions wrought in real environment. “I direct people I photograph. I use a walkie-talkie to give them pointers. I move objects around. Since I generally have little time, that’s an amazingly positive constraint. I have to be inventive,” explains Vincent Fournier, coining the maxim “constraint is creativity.” He recalls, for example, how he once used office blinds to set the mood in a photograph, plunging it into imagination-stirring darkness. “I’m no scientist,” notes the photographer who, above all, wants to raise questions about space conquest. He has thus held on to a childhood dream about faraway stars. “When you’re a teenager and watch 2001: Space Odyssey, what a thrill that is!”
Vincent Fournier’s work is all about bridging childhood and adulthood, utopia and plain reality. His photographs open up a space of reflection about our relationship to the environment, to the planet Earth, and to what goes on in the night sky. There are no assertions, only hints and suggestions. Faced with these photographs, some viewers might feel that all this is absurd, that a world constructed to explore other worlds is pointless. Others, on the contrary, might be touched by the beauty of the world of space exploration, by the special outfits, or a model of the Ariane rocket… The early days of space conquest evoke nostalgia embodied in the suits of the first astronauts preserved in museums. “Times have changed,” sums up the photographer. “Space exploration used to be viewed more positively. Nowadays, we are much less optimistic and we ask questions that previously hadn’t crossed our minds.” As examples, he cites defunct satellites which pollute the earth’s orbit. Nevertheless, he still dreams of space travel. Soon, Vincent Fournier will be photographing the NASA spacecraft Orion before it takes off on its mission.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Vincent Fournier, Space Project
From September 28 to October 26, 2019
East 26 Projects Gallery, 3461 E 26th St, Vernon, CA 90058, United States