These are photographs of stars in the daytime sky, slow time, vast distance, and events that we will never be able to witness again. I use the term "slow" rather than "still" to contain these images, after one of Moholy-Nagy's Eight Varieties of Photographic Vision, as these images are made over relatively long periods of time rather than fractions of a second.
Spectrum Studies, 2013-ongoing
Lightjet print on DiBond, UV laminate, wood frame. 31.5 x 35 inches (80 x 89cm). Each an edition of 5 +1AP
"In a practice that limns the evasive subjects of light and time’s passage, Scott Massey makes material choices matter. Spectrum Studies presents his effort to form a “durational landscape," a film work to be completed [during a residency in 2014] that subtly summarizes a 24-hour period through diverse filters, films, and imaging technology. ...photographic studies that make up his preparations, beautiful objects straining to chart the evolution of a day through a single frame." Modern Painters, October 2013, p. 40
Related to the video project Light Adjustments (created and presented at Dazibao/PRIM, Montreal), Spectrum Studies is a series of landscape photographs created with a Hasselblad medium format camera using custom laser-cut stainless steel dark slides. These dark slides allow multiple but discrete exposures on a single piece of film, registering the passage of time in a single “frame”. Each pie-shaped section of the image represents an element or moment within the image frame, so that the entire image presents a photographic exploration of one particular “spectrum”. The five areas of exploration will be: The Visible Spectrum; Greyscale; Day-Night; Ultraviolet; and Infrared. The Visible Spectrum will separate the colour channels of white light, i.e.: rainbow colours; Greyscale, will separate the sections based on the Ansel Adams Zone System; Day-Night will separate the sections based on each hour of a 24-hour cycle; and Ultraviolet and Infrared will separate the sections based on those accessible ranges above and below the visible spectrum.
Transit (viewed through unexposed processed transparency film), 2012
Lightjet print on DiBond, UV laminate, wood frame. 40.25 x 45.5 inches (102 x 116cm). Edition of 6 + 1AP
Transit Day, 2012
HD video of assembled footage taken June 5th, 2012, Nevada
Transit is a photograph made during the actual June 5th 2012 transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun, taken from the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is possible, though not advisable, to view the sun through unexposed and processed transparency film.
The transit of Venus is a cyclical event that occurs twice every 105.5 or 121 years with the two near events eight years apart. Basically our planet lines up with Venus on the ecliptic as Venus crosses the face of the sun (which all planets technically do all the time when viewed from the next planet out, it's just rare that they pass at the same time). Being such a rare occurrence would make this important enough, but the 1769 event saw Great Britain and France engaged in the Seven Years' War, which both countries agreed to desist while scientific parties were dispatched to make observations "for all mankind". Crews of war ships were replaced with scientists, and many countries sent ships off to far flung destinations around the globe in search of the most optimal locations not just for viewing the transit, but in an effort to triangulate their positions with the timing of the crossing. This triangulation technique was proposed in an effort to map distances of the known solar system.
La Lune Perdue, 2013
Daguerreotype in custom white oak wood frame. 16 x 20 inches (40 x 50cm). Edition of 2 + 1AP
I graciously acknowledge the very generous assistance of Adam Fuss Studio New York, and the BC Arts Council.
After a number of stilted starts, the history of photography begins in about 1826 with the collaborative efforts of Joseph Niépce and Louis Dauerre, first from Niépce’s initial experiments with light sensitive compounds, and later with Daguerre’s discoveries of permanently fixing latent images on polished silver plates, known as daguerreotypes. Daguerre’s process patent was quickly purchased by the French government and made part of the public domain shortly thereafter. The rapid success of daguerreotypes continued until the invention of the glass plate negative in 1840. Though the new glass plate process had a number of advantages over the daguerreotype, not least of which was the absence of the potentially harmful or even fatal mercury bath stage, daguerreotypes remained exceeding beautiful and hauntingly alive.
One of Daguerre’s earliest images was in fact the first astronomical photograph ever made, a picture of the moon in 1839. Due to tracking errors on the telescope during the lengthy exposure time, the image turned out to be more of a fuzzy spot. Regardless, what must have been a fascinating result was later destroyed in a fire and lost forever. It is interesting to note that astronomical daguerreotype photographs continued to be made for some time after most photographers had abandoned the process.
La Lune Perdue recreates Daguerre’s photograph of the moon through a combination of antique processes and updated technologies to produce a large and detailed daguerreotype of the moon.
A Path Must Always Curve, 2015
Large format B&W fibre prints. 49 x 41 inches (76 x 80cm). Each an edition of 3
These large format darkroom prints record the visual effects of the earth hurtling through space, a fact we might accept theoretically but one that tends not to impact our daily routine. Our incredibly accelerated movement through space is the reason we feel an effect called “gravity”. It is the cause of the sun’s daily rising and setting, and the reason we see the stars turn slowly overhead at night. From our terrestrial perspective it is easy to understand why for so long it was believed that the earth was static and all of these things occurred around us.
Making use of a common tool that allows astronomers to view the night sky by fixing the view of the stars called a “motorized equatorial mount”, I replaced the telescope with a 4X5 camera, essentially creating landscape photographs where the land is actually shifting over the course of the lengthy exposures. Because the earth rotates on a tilted axis, the angle of blurred landscape will be different than the line of the horizon. The completed images are oriented to the this new rotational horizon.
I would like to thank Blaine Campbell for generously lending out his beautiful Linhof Technika field camera for the beginning of this project.
Via Lactea (Rancho Rasdoul), 2015
Via Lactea (above Glacier Lake), 2012
The Via Lactea images are created by photographing very small sections of the night sky stars over the course of many hours on the same piece of film. This labour intensive process usually takes most of the night, and is carried out in remote locations under a new (no) moon to avoid any light pollution. It is important to note that the completed images are not representative of the night sky in its entirety; astronomers would not recognize any familiar patterns in these star fields. However, by the inversion of normal scanning and processing I am able to achieve the illusion of seeing white stars on a luminous blue background, an effective reminder that the stars are sill “out” during the daytime. The additive exposure technique is one astronomers use to image very distant galaxies. In this way, very faint sources can be rendered brightly enough to see clearly, when otherwise they would be all but invisible.