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Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- Vincent Fournier's photography captures a longing for the space age that lives somewhere between the recently made-possible and the science fiction of the '70s and '80s. Inspired by trips to the Paris museum of science, Vincent has been fascinated by the machine world since his youth and incorporates it into most of his work.
His first project, "Tour Operator," presented a global vision of domesticated landscapes where humans appear slightly out of step with the environment they created. In "The Man Machine," he gained access to robotics laboratories and staged a series candid portraits featuring the latest in artificial intelligence going about "their daily lives," such as responding to e-mails or taking a trip to the water cooler.
In his "Space Project," Vincent pays homage to the world's great centers of space exploration and study: Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia, Mars Desert Research Station in Utah, various observatories and antenna arrays, and, most recently, the Ariane Space Center in French Guiana. Just this past month, Vincent finally got permission to shoot in NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, home of the soon-to-be-closed space shuttle program, and Vincent's holy grail.
Vincent (with us tailing him) was graciously afforded an almost all-access behind the scenes tour of Kennedy Space Center -- mission control was a no-go, unsurprisingly -- which included a pilgrimage to launchpad 39A, site of the impending STS-135 mission, NASA's last in the Space Transportation System (STS, or Space Shuttle) era. He also got a peek at the NASA engine shop, shuttle landing facility and control tower, vehicle assembly building, and mobile launch platforms, as well as several other difficult-to-remember locales.
Throughout our visit, Vincent kept asking the kind NASA public affairs officers if there were "clean rooms" or "white rooms" he could photograph in, and they were generous enough to let him navigate his way through a handful. At one point, we entered an enormous three-chambered room full of men and women working on towering rocket engines. It was akin to stumbling on to the set of Micro Machines: the Movie but with the people in miniature. Vincent snapped a few photos but pressed forward quickly, as he was more interested in the adjacent airlock room with its almost fully white aesthetic. Here he had a little more more freedom to let his cinematic imagination take hold, as well as the option of positioning a worker in a clean room suit (aka "bunny suit"). The images are reminiscent of some he took at Ariane in French Guiana, with their stark empty spaces broken up by vivid lines and colors.
While the trip represented a longtime goal for Vincent, there was an overwhelming sense of nostalgia to almost everything we saw. It was bittersweet to visit NASA while workers were getting their layoff notices and the shuttle program, with all its attendant promise and tragedy, was in its final days. Viewing the Atlantis orbiter perched on the launch pad and protected by the service structure made it seem very fragile, even though it was made to travel over 100 times the speed of sound.