Starlight is an exhibition of night sky photography in the Jewel Gallery, featuring photographer Stan Honda. What does the night sky look like? Today about two-thirds of the U.S. population can’t see that “milky circle,” the Milky Way galaxy, due to artificial lights that wash out the view. Honda’s goal with Starlight is to show what the night sky really looks like, and that witnessing the magnificent array of stars across a truly dark sky can inspire both awe and meditation.
Starlight was open in the Jewel Gallery alongside the Fires of Change exhibition in the Main Gallery, from September 5 through October 31, 2015.
Honda worked as a photojournalist for 34 years, covering some of the biggest stories of the last 25 years based in New York City. Most recently he was a staff photographer for Agence France-Presse, the French news agency. In his work for the agency he witnessed and documented the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center and subsequent recovery efforts and memorials. In 2003 and 2004 Stan was embedded as a photojournalist in Iraq. Other major assignments have included four presidential elections, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Superstorm Sandy, the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2013 Boston marathon bombing.
Separate from his career as a photojournalist, Honda has pursued night sky landscapes and astrophotography, teaching himself many of the techniques. Much of this recent work was produced during the National Park Service’s Artist-in-Residence programs at Rocky Mountain National Park, Wupatki National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park and Grand Canyon National Park.
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What does the night sky look like? When our ancestors looked up, they saw countless stars, a Venus so bright it cast a shadow, and a pale band of light arching across the cosmos that the Greeks called galaxias kyklos. Today about two-thirds of the U.S. population can’t see that “milky circle,” the Milky Way galaxy, due to artificial lights that wash out the view.
I believe that our connection to the universe lies in this diminishing resource. Throughout time we have looked to the heavens to navigate, create myths and stories, and dream about distant worlds. Preservation of this view is essential to our heritage and even our species.
As an artist, I seek to capture night sky landscapes and astronomical events using digital cameras to show wide views of the terrestrial and the celestial, of Earth moving through space, of the grandeur of the Milky Way, the sun and the moon, and the apparent movement of stars through the night sky.
Since I spend much of my time in an urban setting, the photographs also show what is visible even in the midst of one of the most densely populated regions of the globe. They reveal that to appreciate the sky, one need only look up, even in a place where light or air pollution obscure the heavens.
My goal is to show what the night sky really looks like, and that witnessing the magnificent array of stars across a truly dark sky can inspire both awe and meditation. When I take these images, I’m usually alone, and it’s dark and very quiet. The long exposures give me the chance to take in surrounding vistas. Looking up I see a picture of the past; distances to stars and galaxies are so far that their light takes decades, millennia and even millions of years to reach us. Through the work I gain an appreciation of the natural world around us. I hope that people who see the photographs will too.