A Journey: The Near Future

by Nicolai Howalt

In a time of great technological leaps and climatic upheavals, Mars represents the next steppingstone for humanity’s expansion into space.
In A Journey: The Near Future, Nicolai Howalt depicts our yet-to-be- explored red neighbor, nearly 63 million kilometers away.

Howalt’s work takes its starting point in the photographic panoramas captured on the surface of Mars by the NASA-rovers Curiosity, Perseverance, Spirit and Opportunity.

Through his processing of the images, Howalt adds an element of recognizability and human presence to the extraterrestrial landscapes by converting the digital files into photographic negatives, which have subsequently been developed as black and white prints in the darkroom. By transforming the images from digital information to physical photographs created with light, chemistry and human hands, the images open to a sensitive gaze that is not only aimed at scientific data collection, but also at existential and historically conscious reflections. Historically, black and white photography has been linked to the presence of a photographer and thus Howalt induces the extraterrestrial landscapes with a sense of human presence that brings us into a paradoxical closeness with a landscape, where no human has yet been.
In their transformation from pixels to silver halides the panoramas become images not brought into vision by the remote eyes of a robot, but by human hands and sensibility. Furthermore, the open expanses of Mars bear resemblance to those depicted in frontier photography of the 1800s. Thereby, the works raise questions, both regarding the consequences of our colonization of space and the problems associated with our zeal for propulsion.