Cristina De Middel The Afronauts

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Last week we were intrigued by the pictures of Cristina de Middel after visiting FOAM. The feeling of a failed attempt in becoming an astronaut, captured in a picture. Yet the portraits show a certain pride, as if they succeeded… Or maybe their pride lies in acceptance of knowing they didn’t succeed.

Photographer Cristina De Middel (1975, Spain) chose as she starting point for her project The Afronauts a little-known episode from Zambia’s history. This was a space programme started by an educator which suddenly entered Zambia in the space race with the United States and Russia. Its aim was to put the first African on the moon. Due to a lack of financial resources, however, the ambitious initiative was doomed to failure. Fifty years later, De Middel reconstructs this story, using her own imagination.

In The Afronauts, De Middel combines set-up photography with copies of typed letters and reproductions of vintage photos. Although The Afronauts is in fact based on a failed undertaking, the project includes nothing that refers to the failure – to the contrary. Instead we view fantasy-rich and colourfull images full of humour, with wonderfull self-created props, unexpected twists and unusual visitors.The photos have an upbeat look thanks to De Middels’s fanciful space suits, playful astronaut training sessions and a Zambian flag with a smiley face. Other characters also appear against the background of the rugged landscape of Alicante, including an elephant presented as a space creature and a cat dressed in a starred costume, which according to the story also was planned to be launched into space.

The Afronauts by Cristina De Middel can be seen from 13 September – 11 December 2013 at Foam.