Projects

Photographing terrestrial analogue sites in Iceland

All images from the series Heimr © Matthew Broadhead

How do you photograph space and our lengthy history with it? What does its past and present look like? And how do you encounter it on Earth? These are some of the questions that Matthew Broadhead deals with in his graduation project, Heimr. In 1965 and 1967, NASA and the US Geological Survey organised field trips to Iceland for American astronauts to experience what were perceived to be the most moon-like locations on Earth before they travelled into space.

These “terrestrial analogue sites” featured geological, environmental or biological conditions of a celestial body, acting as training locations to gain practical knowledge for their research.

The young photographer travelled to Iceland to photograph these symbolic sites.

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Broadhead’s interest in the geology of the Earth developed during his second year studying at the University of Brighton.

In his previous projects he has focused on organic life forms and new technologies that areused to see further into outer space.

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“I had existential thoughts about how small everything was on a macrocosmic level, which this led me to develop a metaphysical component in my work with my final year project,” Broadhead explains.

Heimr continues his research on the manifold ways we have visualised the rather abstract relationship between our world and beyond, this time through the ‘concrete’ bits of space where our species has a history, understood through the traces of evidence left behind”.

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Fascinated by the process and philosophy of exploration, Heimr is underpinned by a broad range of ideas that extend past science and into the more ambiguous intersection between mythology and history, touching upon our ever-shifting belief systems.

The project takes its name from a word used in Eddic myth that translates to ‘world’, and mixes archival documents with landscapes taken by Broadhead during his trip to Iceland.

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“I refer back to a time when paganism was the main belief system in Iceland and our relationship with the Earth was greatly different from now, where we are leaving to colonise other planets rather than sustaining our own world,” he elaborates.

Broadhead sees photography as a way to explore his different interests, making connections between astronomy, geology, literature, philosophy, anthropology, archaeology and classical studies – something he feels his course was very open to.

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“I wanted to carry over from my experience studying fine art, and the degree at Brighton doesn’t have a ‘house’ style so I felt like it was a natural fit for me,” he says.

The photographer is currently working on refining the dummy he has made of Heimr and developing it into a photobook.

matthewbroadhead.com