An interaction with geology, astronomy and photography as critical subjects developed to encompass history, mythology, religion and technology in Iceland. The story of Heimr started in 2016, between the fiftieth anniversaries of scientific fieldtrips organized by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. Groups of U.S. astronauts and personnel from both government agencies arrived in Iceland in 1965 and 1967. NASA considered Iceland to be “Probably the most moon-like of the field areas” in a document that functioned as a field-training schedule, and it’s clear that they were allies in human exploration. This relationship was made tangible in an address printed in the Morgunblaðið newspaper on June 30th 1967 from the Icelandic president at that time Ásgeir Ásgeirsson. In writing he gave the astronauts a warm welcome to Iceland shortly before their rendezvous at Keflavík International Airport where the U.S. military had a base from World War II until 2006 as the U.S. Navy and NATO.
Professor Sigurður Þórarinsson and professor Guðmundur Sigvaldason were experts in Icelandic geology who provided guidance during both field explorations in key locations including Askja caldera, Lake Myvatn and Reykjanes Peninsula. To prepare for the prospect of landing on the moon, analogue terrestrial sites were identified and the ‘Moon Game’ was practiced as an assessment to determine if each astronaut could successfully deploy experiments in desolate settings and collect samples the way they expected to on the moon. ‘Space analogue’ is a technical term used by NASA to describe places on Earth with assumed past or present geological, environmental or biological conditions of celestial bodies including the moon and Mars.
Heimr is a manifestly contemporary project that reflects on varied hypotheses ranging from the world of science fiction into empirical discourse before the Apollo 11 moon landing and the shifting sands of debates into current times. NASA continues to monitor the moon, empirically gathering and analyzing data to permanently transform humanity’s relationship from one of romantic longing of the earth’s only satellite to a lucid lunar mapping accessible on the Internet. The moon still holds interest into current times but in the media especially there’s a notable shift towards the imminent exploration and colonization of Mars that’s made it a popular topic for conversation. A prevailing belief about the state of the moon was that it was largely considered a dead planet, and this view is largely ascribed to the celebrated astronomer Mädler, who in his book ‘Der Mond’ published in 1837 made a statement about the differences and contrasts between the condition of the moon and the earth. He pointed out that the view at the time of the moon being a copy of the earth was impossible. Mädler’s views crept into astronomical textbooks and gradually led to the conviction that the moon is a defunct planet destitute of air and life and exists as a mass of rocks and cinders, cold, lifeless, and unchangeable. Despite this geologic activity on the moon has been monitored by selenographers who are optimistic in the existence of activity, and recently scientists in this field have revealed their findings that the planet is in fact expanding and contracting.
The genesis of Heimr took place during my first phone call to Iceland, when I spoke with Örlygur Hnefill Örlygsson, owner of ‘The Exploration Museum’ and manager at ‘The Cape Hotel’ in Husavik. I had a longstanding interest in travelling north for a future project, I had the timeframe and the budget to be ambitious and I already knew what subject areas I was interested in, so after coming across his website and becoming fascinated by the potential of the story I contacted him. I told Örlygur about my intention to do a photo-essay about the heritage of Iceland’s involvement in space exploration with a particular interest in museology and interaction with public archive facilities to dig deeper into what took place during both trips. This included: Where did the astronauts arrive? Where did they stay? What was the extent of the group? What did they do? These questions led to answers that influenced the types of material I generated when I was there in person. […]
Matthew Broadhead is a British photographer currently based in Southwest England. He graduated from the BA (Hons) Photography program at the University of Brighton in 2016 and has enjoyed recognition for his graduate body of work ‘Heimr’ that was featured in the July 2016 issue of The British Journal of Photography and received 1st prize in judging for the inaugural Photoworks award.
His projects feature his engagement in photography as a critical medium of self-awareness. A variety of conjunctions are explored including astronomy; geology; literature; philosophy; anthropology; archaeology and classical studies. Each body of work shows the multiplicity of his medium and presents the viewer with a layered multi-dimensional study, often endowed with a speculative look at history and place.
all images and text © Matthew Broadhead