Photographer and astronomer Stephen Strom looks at our planet with a unique vision. He has spent most of his professional life as an astronomer, searching out patterns encoded in the light from distant stars in the hope of understanding how our sun and solar system came to be.
He has spent countless hours perched on remote mountaintops, looking upward mostly, but also contemplating and photographing the desert below. During those times, he became drawn to the changing patterns of desert lands sculpted by the glancing light of the rising and setting sun: light that reveals forms molded both by millennial forces and yesterday’s cloudburst into undulations of shapes and colors.
His new series, Earth and Space, is a portfolio of diptychs that combine his landscape interpretations with images of Mars taken by NASA and ESA planetary probes. Strom will speak about his work, and show his new images and some earlier images at the Academy Village next Thursday, Dec. 6.
His earth-based images find resonance in the remarkable photographs of Mars produced by planetary probes. Strom has imagined himself standing on the surface of Mars, or on a high Martian mountain and searching for patterns which evoke the same powerful emotional response as a desert landscape.
His Earth and Space diptychs are combinations of landscapes and Mars-scapes that capture patterns revealing both sculptural and chromatic rhythms, and, on another level, commonality of physical forces, often acting on vastly different spatial and temporal scales.
New York born, Strom received his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in astronomy from Harvard University. He began his career as a lecturer in astronomy at Harvard and an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, then chairman of the Five College Astronomy Department at University of Massachusetts in Amherst, MA.
In 1998 he moved to Tucson as a member of the staff at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory where he carried out research directed at understanding the formation of stars and planetary systems.
For over three decades, Strom has been photographing the deserts of the American Southwest, creating arresting images of forbidding, breathtaking landscapes containing geological formations and striking colors like nothing else on earth.
His desert images have been exhibited widely, are in several museum collections, accompany poems and essays in three books, and have been published in a monograph, “Earth Forms.”
Submitted by Drew Potter, Academy Village Volunteer