A photographer took these utterly surreal photos of himself in places that look like Mars to make a statement about humanity

If humans went to Mars, this is what it might look like, according to French photographer and author Julien Mauve:

Mauve has travelled across the US to put together his project called “Greetings From Mars,” which offers absolutely stunning photos of himself wearing a spacesuit in places that look like they could be from the Red Planet.

These are some of the places he visited:

  • Imperial Sand Dunes, California
  • Death Valley, California
  • Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
  • Meteor Crater, Arizona
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
  • Canyonlands National Park, Utah
  • Goblin Valley State Park, Utah

Before choosing these places, Mauve did a lot of research on Martian geology.

“When it comes to finding Mars look-alike landscapes on Earth, there is not a lot of choice in the end,” Mauve told Business Insider. “Basically, what you need [are] rocks, sand, canyons, and no signs of biological life — ” all with a reddish tint, he said.

As Mauve discovered, the visual similarities between the terrain on Mars and Earth are striking. For example, the Martian sand dunes
in a crater called the Nili Patera appear similar to those in Antactica’s Victoria Valley are on Earth, because both are sculpted by wind, one study suggests.

Moreover, both Mars and Earth have domelike shield volcanoes, although some of the ones on Mars tend to dwarf those on our home planet. The most massive volcano on Earth, Mauna Loa in Hawaii, is about 100 times smaller than the largest one on Mars: Olympus Mons. To be fair, Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the entire solar system.

Mauve’s project takes inspiration from Ansel Adams, the American photographer known for his iconic black-and-white photographs of the American West. “I have always wondered what it would be like to discover a totally different world, lifeless, full of wild landscapes, and to photograph it for the first time as if I was Ansel Adams,” Mauve wrote. (Mauve wouldn’t tell us where each photo was taken — that kind of misses the point of the project, he said.)

The project is about space exploration and discovery. “But it’s also about our behaviour in front of landscapes and how we create pictures that will share our personal story with the world,” he wrote on his site.

So, in every spot Mauve went, he imitated typical tourist poses, to mimic the way we act in front of the camera and find ways to “affirm our presence” in the landscape.

Some of the places are familiar:

While others look totally alien.

Many of Mauve’s photos emphasise the solitary nature of space exploration.

But a few of them reveal how it brings us together.

Mauve’s photos are also meant as a commentary on humanity’s search for meaning.

“With Internet available everywhere, there is no ‘being-far-away’ anymore,” he wrote. “So we might ask ourselves, do we travel to discover new places, [a] change of scene, new cultures, or do we travel to look for pictures of ourselves and to prove that we exist?”

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