Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013
by Rebecca J Gerken
Held at the Royal Observatory in London the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 exhibition is the fifth of its kind to date. If you have ever been to the Observatory, perhaps you remember the darkened rooms with their interactive podiums and cabinets encasing old globes and space searching apparatus, oozing mystery and exhausting the hunger to learn about our solar system. Each room has something new to tell you, something fantastical to show you and in this, the first floor inadvertently prepares you for the magical exhibition that can be found on the lower floor.
Split into several categories and with over 1200 entries this year, I was surprised at the size of the area the exhibition occupied. Darkened like the other rooms, the backlit winning images were in a room no larger than the coffee shop at The Photographers’ Gallery. Four grey temporary walls, pulling away from the permanent walls here and there, creating a slight zigzag effect made the exhibition thankfully uncomplicated.
The categories were ‘Earth and Space’, ‘Our Solar System’, ‘Deep Space’ and ‘Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year’. There were also three special prizes for ‘People and Space’, ‘Robotic Scope’ and the ‘Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer’. The overall winner was Mark Gee’s ‘Guiding Light to the Stars’ (below) which also won the ‘Earth and Space’ category.
It would have got my vote without a doubt. The Milky Way, in all her splendour, truly is breath-taking. The beaming lighthouse grins in the night, as if showing the stars the way, or perhaps showing us the way to the stars. Small details such as the bracken and rocks before the shore, the misty sea smooth thanks to the long exposure, and the sign of humanity with the structural lighthouse and buildings below it, make this image magnificent and majestic. Every rock, every star makes you wish you were there.
Second to get my vote would have been a photograph that was awarded runner up in the ‘People and Space’ category. ‘Hi.Hello’ (above) is slightly overwhelming to behold. For me, I imagine it as a comment on loneliness and how small we really are as intelligent beings. And yet I also see a confrontational aspect as if the body in the photograph is standing up to the expanse of snow and space in defiance. We may not have created our world, the stars or the universe that holds them, but by Jove, we endeavour to discover every nook, every cranny and every secret…