The global award in photography and sustainability

Thomas Ruff

The works of the ma.r.s. series are based on black-and-white satellite photographs of the surface of Mars, taken by the high-resolution camera aboard NASA´s spacecraft Mars Renaissance Orbiter. These images, studied by scientists for information about the planet’s geology and potential landing sites for future visits, reveal extreme close-ups of the planet’s rugged surface, until recently unseen by anyone.
The high resolution images are taken in black/white because of the amount of data, that has to be sent back to earth (color photographs would have four times the quantity and this would raise problems transmitting in regard to time and storage)

I digitally processed these very naturalist and yet strange images in several stages:
By compressing the shots, which were photographed vertically downwards, I changed/transformed the image view into an angle that has almost the impression of looking out of an airplane window.
This enables the viewer to gain the perspective of a traveller arriving on mars, which is completely fictional: the first man might have these views/impressions in maybe 20 or 30 years.

Because of the lack of color within the transmitted images, I added color such that the surface of this distant planet seems immediately accessible and almost familiar. Sometimes the coloring followed images that are known
of marsian landscapes, sometimes the coloring is completely absurd, following the idea, that there is no true color in space. Do aliens have the same sub-spectrum of visible light like man or is it a different part of the electromagnetic spectrum?

The resulting chromogenic prints transform the originals into visual statements that are at once documentary and fictional.

Evocative of abstract and minimalist compositions, some surfaces have been rendered as 3D images, using a technique originally developed in the nineteenth century to convey the illusion of depth. Indicative of NASA’s own efforts to measure topographic highs and lows, these works, add an aspect of the absurd, in the fact that you can actually recognize deep relief on the surface of another planet with cheap 3D glasses.