APAlmanac was recently provided with an early access opportunity to view Roland Miller’s expansive new book Orbital Planes: A Personal Vision of the Space Shuttle. This 200-page hardcover book being published later this month by Damiani is a beautiful visual tribute to America’s Space Shuttle Program.
Miller, a retired Florida college photography professor, began capturing the Space Shuttle in 1988. His interest began while photographing nearby NASA launch sites. His first book, Abandoned in Place: Preserving America’s Space History, documents deactivated and repurposed space launch facilities around the US. Miller then followed this book with Interior Space: A Visual Exploration of the International Space Station, where he collaborated with Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli to capture the photographs of the ISS in space.
Miller’s latest book is a combination of, as he describes, “documentary and abstract photographs.” The book provides the viewer with an incredible level of access to both the grandeur and scale of the various space shuttles but also to the intimate, textural details, captured in aesthetically pleasing geometric compositions. Although Miller has been capturing the Space Shuttle Program for 25 years, the project to photograph the images in this book took place primarily between 2008 and 2013. Miller’s focus was on the surviving orbiters of Enterprise, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour. He did not have as much of an opportunity to capture Challenger or Columbia prior to their respective disasters in 1986 and 2003.
It was often the astronauts who were the ones capturing the photographs that documented the Space Shuttle Program. Of course, that often resulted in views of Earth from the space shuttle. What Orbital Planes provides us with is a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into what the astronauts, scientists and technicians saw and experienced for themselves both within the space shuttles and around them. From a design and architecture perspective, the views are both fascinating and beautiful.
In the first paragraph of the prologue to Orbital Planes, Miller offers some poignant photography advice. “When photographing a Space Shuttle launch, I always stopped for a few seconds and pulled my eye away from the camera to take in the experience. It was easy to get absorbed in the photography and miss the feel and sensation of a launch. My advice to anyone who gets to witness a rocket launch in person for the first time: don’t photograph; just watch, feel, and listen.”
No matter what type of photography we do, I imagine we can all heed this sage advice from time to time.
Click here to preorder a copy of Roland Miller’s new book Orbital Planes: A Personal Vision of the Space Shuttle