Nick van Tiem's Noctural Skyscapes

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Dutch photographer Nick van Tiem got into astronomy when looking at the night sky with a friend in Italy.
In the following weeks he immersed himself in stories and images of new discoveries in these unknown worlds millions of light years away, all the while wondering how best to experience these advances for himself.
Initially focusing on employees at large space-related companies and researchers at universities, he took photographs for six months before deciding it wasn’t the right angle. “The distance between me and the researchers was simply too big, I could not relate to them,” he says.
Then he met a pastry-chef called Koen Miskotte through an astronomy forum, and his project, The Star Disappeared, began to take shape.
The amateur astronomer camps out every time there’s a clear night to watch for meteors, reporting his findings to scientific institutes and thus helping ensure astronauts stay in a safe orbit.
Van Tiem then went on to meet four other amateur astronomers, all of whom observe different subjects but play a small but vital role in major scientific research.
“To me, amateur scientists like Koen came to exemplify how regular people can be important contributors to one of the greatest ongoing challenges humanity faces in the 21st century – exploring space and worlds beyond our planet Earth,” the photographer says.
The images in his resulting publication, which formed a major part of his graduation project at The Royal College of Art in The Hague, are far removed from his initial typological portraits, showing lone figures dwarfed by monumental star-lit nightscapes.
“I felt that in one image I had captured the relation between our home planet, the universe and the normal guy trying to grasp his mysteries,” he says.
At its centre, the book contains some still lifes of meteorites that Van Tiem describes as ‘trophies’ that represent the only physical evidence of the hours spent observing the universe.
Describing his approach to photography as “romantic and journalistic”, Van Tiem says his project pays tribute to the dedication and passion of the people he met whilst exploring this large and abstract subject.
“It is the contradictions between small actions and big consequences that helps me to understand and relate to these worlds,” he adds.
Find out more about Nick’s work here.