“We are ever more aware that we are tiny, ephemeral, inconsequential beings, but we can’t shake the notion that the things we do every day are important and meaningful.”—David Shannon-Lier
The night sky has always provided a sense of direction for what Cornel West calls the “featherless two-legged linguistically conscious creature born between urine and feces whose body will one day be the culinary delight of terrestrial worms”—you and me. David Shannon-Lier’s photographs pay homage to this ancient fascination with direction in its most elemental forms: light and line.
By way of introduction, I would like to talk briefly about a photograph that was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in December, 1995, called “The Hubble Deep Field” or HDF. It is one of the most astonishing photographs I have ever come across. The feeling the photograph gives me when I ponder it is the very same feeling that I am hoping to address in the Of Heaven and Earth series.
The idea the scientists behind the Hubble Deep Field had was to take a really long exposure (essentially 10 days) of an ostensibly empty region of sky. When the image was processed, however, it revealed that this patch of sky is not empty at all. Around 3000 objects were identified, and almost all of them were galaxies. Let me say that again in a slightly different way: when you go out at night and look up, there are 3000 galaxies in every area of the sky 1/16th the size of the moon! 3000 galaxies in a square 1/28,000,000th the size of the night sky!
Even though we have spent the last 500 years expanding the scope of the Copernican Revolution (and the HDF perfectly illustrates how vast this expansion is), our notion of the importance of our own lives and actions has not shrunk in proportion. It is this rather beautiful tension that I am addressing with my photographs in this series. We are ever more aware that we are tiny, ephemeral, inconsequential beings, but we can’t shake the notion that the things we do every day are important and meaningful. It is why we make art, why we raise children, why we are kind to strangers, why we make big telescopes and take pictures of the night sky. —Shannon-Lier