Photosphere is a video and 16mm film installation including a research area with various background study material accentuating epistemological modus operandi of photography.
The film follows solar physicist Sara Martin in her peculiar garden outside Los Angeles, California, setting up her solar telescope while reflecting on her work. The installation mixes 16 mm film sequences of the sun originally shot on 35mm by Martin and her team in the 1960’s with archival material from a Hollywood film laboratory called Pathé Laboratories. The observatory where Sara Martin and her colleagues worked had during the 1950’s established a liaison with Pathé Laboratories and developed their solar films there for decades, benefitting from the film industry’s high quality processing.
Combining speakers and sound canceling headphones the installation’s audio track comes in two parts, creating a captivating binary effect of the environmental background of the garden and film laboratory that coexists with the poetic intimate world of Martin’s voiceover and minor sounds of handling the equipment.
Sara Martin spends long hours observing and recording changes on the sun. Recording the events on film (or nowadays video) helps recognizing active regions on the sun as well as understanding their behaviour. The time-lapse videos are used as research material that can be measured and analysed. While the imagery can be appreciated for its aesthetic value, with its beautiful hues of false colour, its primary purpose is to be looked at in terms of information decoded into scientific value. The usage of the film in this context underlines its ability to capture what the human eye could perhaps see itself but does not register unless it is shown as an image. The idea of extended photographic manipulation acquires almost a graphical representation suggesting advanced focus in approaching the current concepts of image. Whether it is a popular culture aspect represented by Hollywood cinema or a complex phenomenological study of cosmic manifestations, photography affirms its core role of encompassing instruments.
Camera, editing and sound: Minna Långström
16mm Solar Film courtesy of Sara Martin
Archival material: The Internet Archive
16 mm to video transfer: Reel One Oy