Artwork: Totem107

Totem107 – final image

One of my favourite things is discovered art… especially from the least likely of sources. Totem107 was this exactly. 

Many years ago, I tried to photograph the moon through my telescope using an iPhone. A test of patience really, as it was difficult to align both sets of optics. To add to my difficulty, clicking the shutter on the phone would unbalance my hand and throw off the alignment. The result was all the images were oddly clipped, looking like I had shot them through a porthole. As if I were on a spacecraft… and so here was my discovery.

Besides my moon picture, the rest of the images are scavenged online. Yes, I often do this for some textures or incidental details I need. And when I do use primary subject matter, It is usually subordinate to my own and modified significantly so as not to plagiarize. So, here’s my declaration/confession.

My working style begins with a concept, followed by one question; can I visualize the completion of the entire project with the fewest unknowns? Once I can see through what needs to be done, I begin.  I begin building and considering the details as I go. 

iPhone photograph through a 4 inch refractor telescope

In this case, the view outside the lunar craft was the easy part (moon and totem). The believability was going to hinge on the supporting details, but they had to be subtle (a big part of my philosophy of art.. especially with images of this kind.. if you try too hard to impress and make obvious the development of the image, you cause too much attention to the fact, losing the realism and the effect).

And with this, I decided to position the Totem high in the window’s frame, partially in the shadows. I was tempted to center it but this would have been too idealistic, too perfect and rationalized. Besides, the moment needed emotion, it needed stress; to feel fleeting, so moving off-camera was the best choice to express this.

My plan for the interior was based on subtly – the reticle on the glass, the reflections, the soft focus on the window’s frame, and the moisture inside the module, i.e. condensation and the glow from the moon’s brightness – all were necessary. 


And of course, the human connection is the biggest thing of all. I needed a face with a certain look. Not a portrait, no smiling, just a serious look. Thankfully a NASA photograph of Commander Eugene Cernan from the Apollo 17 mission fit my needs perfectly. He had returned from his moonwalk dirty and tired, so his demeanour was perfect for the expression I was after. The side-lightning on his face worked well in the glass too; of course, the far-off gaze in his eyes was a bonus here. And the final, ultimate detail is the glove moving into the frame. Seemingly a minor addition, however, it has a two-fold effect: connecting the astronaut to the situation beyond his mere reflection. And in the same way, connecting the audience to the artwork as well.