While you would rent a space suit for some role-play in a Halloween party or the bedroom (hey, no one's judging), Parisian-based photographer Julien Mauve had other ideas. Along with a companion, they suited themselves up and trawled Google Maps, Flickr and Instagram to find landscapes distinguished by red-tinged rocks, sand and canyons. Armed with a camera, a selfie stick and of course, those space suits, they ventured into places where there were hardly any signs of biological life. Welcome to America's Wild West.
Published last week, Greetings from Mars is a photography series that will make you sit up and take notice. If not for the sheer whimsy it exudes, then at least for its manifesto. Inspired by Ansel Adams' iconic photographs of the American West, Mauve set out to capture its wild landscape as if for the first time — and what better way to do so than to don a space suit, the ultimate in exploration gear.
Tying in with the marvel of discovering things for the first time, Mauve's series delves deeper and mirrors how society reacts when faced with a novelty. Depicting a couple experiencing 'Mars' as tourists, the duo includes themselves in the landscapes with selfies and stereotypical tourist photos. Ironically, the subjects go against the original purpose of these souvenier photographs — their faces aren't seen the entire time.
"It's interesting to observe the way we act in front of the camera, how we include ourselves in the landscapes, how those landscapes trigger the desire to affirm our presence," explains Mauve. "And how the way we take pictures exposes the vanity involved in our endless pursuit of self-definition."
Loneliness, nostalgia and new technologies are recurring themes in Mauve's work, and Greetings from Mars is no different. While they depict a couple, some shots see a lone ranger walking in a landscape so quietly vast, that you'll be forgiven into thinking he's on the red planet itself. He isn't entirely alone of course — there's that damned selfie stick, a modern device to affirm and accompany his #foreveralone status.
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"On some pictures, the camera is triggered with my phone in WIFI," says Mauve on how he managed to execute this series with just two people. "Other times, I simply used the old-fashioned 10-second timer and quickly ran in the middle of the desert in space suits to be on the frame, like any other tourist."
Travel to Mars isn't that far-fetched of an idea — NASA's bent on sending humans there in the 2030s, while Dutch organisation Mars One recently made headlines with its one-way trip project, scheduled for 2018. But if you can't wait that long and need to upload an impressive profile picture, the American Wild West is highly recommended.
For more of Julien Mauve's Greetings from Mars, see below.