Ultima Thule / Stephen Vaughan
Stephen Vaughan’s stunning large-scale landscape photographs explore the connections between geology, archaeology and history.
The exhibition takes its title from Ultima Thule, a term used in ancient history to describe the mysterious northern frontier, representing a distant unknown region at the extreme limit of exploration and discovery. Vaughan’s work is inspired by the actual voyage made 2300 years ago by the Greek explorer Pytheas, who travelled to the edge of the then known world beyond Britain, towards Iceland and the Arctic Circle.
Over the last four years Vaughan has revisited the Icelandic landscape, to sites that are the nearest equivalent on Earth to the surfaces of the Moon and Mars, and which were used for training lunar astronauts. His work links Pytheas’ ancient voyage of discovery to the present day and the persistent human urge to explore unknown territory.
Using a cumbersome large-format Gandolfi camera, Vaughan made richly detailed, monumental studies of this otherworldly region. These awe-inspiring images reveal landscapes marked by volcanic activity, shifting tectonic plates, vast glaciers and steaming, sulphurous pools.
Vaughan says, "My photographs depict some of the rawest and youngest surfaces on Earth, allowing the viewer to imagine the prehistoric beginnings of the landscape, void of any human presence or history."
Ultima Thule was part funded by The National Lottery through Arts Council England and The University of Plymouth.
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