When you want to take space photos, you should point your camera and telescope up. Or should you? If you know where to look, galaxy-like formations can even be anywhere, and Finnish photographer Juha Tanhua proves it in this fantastic photo series.
“Hubble? No! James Webb? No!” is a collection of photos that appear to show distant galaxies. But instead of looking up into the sky, Juha pointed his camera to gasoline stains on the local parking lot.
The idea was first born way back in September 2005. Juha was parking his car when he came to take some photos for a newspaper. He noticed that there was an oil spill on the asphalt next to his car. “It looked a little bit like northern lights,” Juha tells DIYP. “I took a couple of photos and forgot the whole thing.”
Months later, Juha was organizing his photo archive when he stumbled upon one of those photos again. After that, whenever he was walking in parking lots after rain, he started noticing those colorful gasoline spills. “I named them oil paintings, Juha jokingly says, “because it looked like oil and gasoline leaks and maybe even windshield washer fluid creates with rain real artworks under cars.” And so, he started capturing this accidental art.
During the first years, his “oil paintings” were quite realistic, with the right exposure and minimal editing. But then, Juha started experimenting. He tried underexposing his photos and editing contrast, sometimes bumping highlights to +100% and shadows to -100%. “I started to find galaxies, comets, and nebulas,” the photographer explains.
“I just watch the movie Don’t Look Up. Strange, but I think I managed to take a photo of Comet Dibiasky couple of years ago in Finnish Lapland 200 miles north from Polar Circle. Lapland is perfect place to take photos of galaxies, nebulas, and other space objects, because there is really not much light pollution. But I didn’t point my camera up to the sky, but down to the asphalt. In a broad daylight.”
“I didn’t look up, but down when I took these photos,” Juha tells DIYP. “It’s not space above us, it’s space under our feet.”
I will leave you now to enjoy more of Juha’s fantastic photos. And remember, beauty can be found everywhere – even in your local parking lot!
About Juha Tanhua
Juha was born on 22 May 1959 in Ivalo, Inari municipality, Lapland, Finland and is currently based near Lahti in Southern Finland. He first started photography around the age of fifteen, and it has been an integral part of his life ever since.
In 1979, he got an apprenticeship job in a local photo store and studio. From 1984 to 1985, he studied journalism in community college for Sámi people in Inari, Finnish Lapland. After that, he started working as a staff photographer in Etelä-Suomen Sanomat newspaper, where he stayed for the next ten years. And in 1996, he started his freelance career, which is what he’s still doing.
Juha has had over 30 exhibitions, and his photos have been published in more than 300 different newspapers and magazines in Finland and abroad. His photos are in the collection of the Finnish National Gallery and Lahti Art Museum. But if you live far from Finland, you can find more of Juha’s amazing work on his website.