In 2004 USC’s Hoyt Gallery was founded by Keck Medical School faculty members intent on engaging medical students with the arts. My series Grounded is currently hanging as part of the gallery’s Spring group show.
These images were made on a lark when a stylist with whom I had recently worked dropped by my studio to pick-up some wardrobe that had to be returned. As my assistant and I were helping load it into her car I noticed a spacesuit from another job. I commented it would be fun to photograph it in random places and she handed it to me as it wasn’t due back to Universal’s wardrobe department for a couple of days. I looked at my assistant, realized he was about the right size, grabbed a camera and we jumped into my truck.
My first thought was to go somewhere barren so we made our way to the desert. Our first stop was a little abandoned shack where we were immediately fielding questions for a local law officer. It tuns out it’s hard to be inconspicuous in the desert wearing a shiny space suit.
We made our way to the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed and started shooting next to some Joshua Trees when a sad, mostly deflated yellow balloon wafted over, seemingly out of nowhere, struggling to lift the weight of it’s tethered ribbon.
After kicking around the desert a bit it was obvious we were still unnecessarily under the watchful eye of the law. I decided that the “fish out of water” scenario of a spaceman walking among the bustling masses of downtown Los Angeles would be a nice juxtaposition to what we had already shot.
The reaction I expected was one of no reaction at all. What I didn’t expect was the warmth with which the spaceman was greeted by every stripe of stranger. As it turns out, left to their own devices Earthlings are a pretty accepting race.
The reverence people have for the promise that this familiar icon offers made me aware that the images we were making that day might resonate with a diverse audience in a very personal way.