Matthew Brandt United States, b. 1982

I grew up assisting my dad who is a commercial photographer, but I never thought about pursuing photography as a career until I moved to New York to study. It could even be the opposite of rebellion considering the history of the medium. Photography was invented and initially practiced by a group of scientists. They put different materials together by chance and experimented with them.

-Matthew Brandt


Boxes, a series of 12 compositions, each an edition of 5, is the result of Brandt exploring the underground vaults of The Carnegie Observatories Astronomical Plate archives in Pasadena. Erica Clark, Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at Carnegie extended an invitation to Lapis to offer our artists the use of the archive as a resource for creative projects, merging the realms of art and science. The visits inspired a sense of wonder at the order of the universe and how beautiful images can emerge from scientific data.

I put my head into a box and saw the universe... 


Boxes is a project that stemmed from several visits to the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena. Almost all of the negatives taken at Mount Wilson Observatory are stored there, including the famous Variable star negative taken by Edwin Hubble that opened up our understanding that the universe is expanding.


When digging around the archive of glass plate negatives, I became interested in the storage boxes that held them. Most are stored in strong oak cabinetry, but many are stored in humble cardboard boxes. I collected as many of these boxes that they allowed me to take. These boxes have experienced the universe more than I ever will. I punched holes in the bottom cardboard façade of each box. Each hole corresponding to star formations mapped according to a particular photograph taken from the observatory. Where there is a star in the picture, there is a hole in the box. These boxes were held up to the sun and light shined through. I then made a photograph.

- Matthew Brandt