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Double exposure stars

Sep. 6, 2017
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In March my friends and I drove to Death Valley, CA, to celebrate my twin sister’s and my birthday. We camped in a parking lot, where I made a lot of morbid jokes about celebrating turning another year older in the Valley of Death. But my more specific reason for going was to see and photograph the sky. Death Valley has almost no light pollution, and the stars feel like a lighted domed ceiling that is abundant and vast. It was amazing to see just how many stars are out there that we can’t see most of the time—how many possible worlds are out there whose existence we can’t even imagine. I stood in the cold night with my tripod, guessing at exposures that would capture the stars and atmosphere above me, and then I rewound my film and took double exposure photos of my summer.

The rest of my summer included a lot of walking around with my dog; seeing Diet Cig; watching my friend Anna’s band, The Hardly Boys; chasing the eclipse; and staring at the clouds pretty much constantly. Juxtaposing images of these everyday occurrences with my view of the stars from Death Valley helped to remind me that the whole universe is connected, even when it feels lonely. Shooting film double exposures always feels like an exercise in chaos and coincidence. There’s no way to know exactly how things are going to turn out, and it feels like a small act of divinity when they reveal a new and altered version of your memories: documentation made magical.