A Rare, Stunning Glimpse Inside The World’s Space Programs [Slideshow]

Vincent Fournier’s crisp, detached pictures of space facilities straddle the divide between documentary and fantasy.

Vincent Fournier has the dream job of anyone who ever fantasized about being an astronaut (but shrinked away from the zero-G simulator): For the past decade he has traveled to space facilities around the globe to snap pictures of everything from rockets and launch pads to cosmonaut gloves and stark white research rooms in a crisp, detached style that’s equal parts beautiful and terrifying. This guy could out-Kubrick Kubrick.


“It’s like a cross between Jules Verne and Jacques Tati,” Fournier, who hails from Paris, explains. “Something a bit absurd with a side of discovering the unknown.” So in one shot, you’ve got a single, reflective space helmet that’s chock full of foreboding, and in another, astronauts summiting what looks like a rock formation in Utah. Or is it Mars? Or some planet we’ve never even heard of? That’s the thing: The pictures look like they’re telling a story, but when you get down to it, you realize you don’t know a lick about what’s going on; you have to make an educated guess. No idea if this was Fournier’s intention here, but it’s a pretty apt metaphor for how science approaches the fuzzy mysteries of the universe.

Fournier declined to talk to Co.Design about his creative process and–our biggest question–how the hell he gained access to some of the largest and, ostensibly, most secretive space agencies in the world, including places in Russia, Kazakhstan, China, the Netherlands, and the United States. “I would prefer you write something about my work [itself],” he tells us in an email. Okay, then!

Luckily, the 18-minute documentary, from, above offers a few clues. Most interestingly, Fournier reveals that he stages some of his shots to invent little “fictions,” which explains how he achieves that distinctly cinematic–and très Kubrick–feel.

[Images courtesy of Vincent Fournier; hat tip to Core 77]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.