Hasted Kraeutler


Artist Biography


Michael Benson

Michael Benson (b. 1962) has emerged as aerospace's most prolific photographer, creating elegantly curated collections of images that give esthetic form and shape to science's most baffling, poetic realities. Described as a “visual stylist with a gift for framing and focus,” he creates intensely detailed views of the solar system culled from enormous archives of raw image data, often in the form of black and white composites taken by space probes, or rovers.

After perusing hundreds and even thousands of these files, he selects subjects or textures that interest him and stitches them together to create otherworldly abstract landscapes, just as David Hockney stitches together numerous images to create photocollages like Pearblossom Highway, 11-18th April, 1986. Benson’s compositions are assemblage —unified, naturalistically colored landscapes that result from a complex process of filtering, expressing at once a sequence of perspectives, filtered through his own color correction system to create a spectrum that approximates how these interstellar vistas would appear to the human eye.

The resulting images are vast, seething expanses of volcanic color and gesture; pocked, dappled surfaces that evoke the moon or smooth rivulets recalling riverbeds. Colors are hypnotic, and compositions suggest the grain of wood or the puckered skein of hot milk. Much as the famed photographer Andreas Gursky brings familiar, recognizable landscapes and locations into razor-sharp focus, so does Benson invite his audience to enjoy his photographs of Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn, as congregations of shape, color, and texture that they have never before seen. Although he works with photography, his method is akin to that of any contemporary artist: he elevates and hones in on the concrete phenomena of the world, bringing it to our attention new ways. His cosmic abstractions provoke viewers to marvel at the potential of the human eye, the innovation of nature, and the power of technology, to apprehend them not for what they depict, but for the formal wonder and novelty that they offer the human eye.

Beyond their esthetic interest, Benson's work forces viewers to confront ideas of authorship in an increasingly technological age. As Dana Jennings wrote in the New York Times, “In these photos we’re not just gazing at lunar barrens and the dunes and lakes of Titan, a moon of Saturn, but also, in a sense, looking at ourselves, turning the solar system into a mirror of human achievement.”

A photographer, writer, and filmmaker, Benson studied photography as an undergraduate at SUNY-Albany and attended NYU Graduate Film School. Benson has been working with planetary photography since the early 2000s. His photographs have been widely exhibited internationally, including in museums such as the Smithsonian Institution, and have been published in three books, Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Harry N. Abrams, 2003), Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle (Harry N. Abrams, 2009) and Planetfall: New Solar System Visions (Harry N. Abrams, 2012). He recently worked with director Terrence Malick to help produce space and cosmology sequences for Malick’s film Tree of Life, which drew in part from Benson’s book and exhibition projects. The film won the Palm d’Or at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Benson is currently working on a fifth book for Abrams, pertaining to electron microscope photography, titled Nanocosmos.



Michael Benson

Jan 24 - Mar 09, 2013

Michael Benson

Feb 03 - Mar 26, 2011



Michael Benson Interview: Space Probes, 2001: Space Odyssey, Keats, and Photos Made at the Very End of Our Reach
Feb 06, 2015

The New Yorker

Mar 11, 2013

The New York Photo Review

Mar 01, 2013


Curating the Cosmos
Feb 15, 2013

The Daily Beast

Issac Asimov or Carl Sagan? The Daily Pic: Michael Benson’s planetary art hovers between sci-fi and astronomy.
Feb 11, 2013

The New York Times

A Scrapbook of Our Relationship With the Universe
Dec 10, 2012


Spectacular Solar System Views: Q&A With ‘Planetfall’ Author Michael Benson
Oct 25, 2012


Michael Benson, Curator (And Explorer of Space Photography)
Oct 24, 2012


Book turns planetary science into art
Oct 16, 2012

Huffington Post

Space Photos: Stunning Images Of The Solar System From New Book, 'Planetfall'
Oct 12, 2012

Time LightBox

The Cosmos In Living Color: Michael Benson’s Interstellar Imagery
Oct 11, 2012


Are Those Spidery Black Things On Mars Dangerous? (Maybe)
Oct 03, 2012


Michael Benson
Nov 01, 2011

Universe Today

Stunning Planetary Portraits and Spacescapes
May 13, 2011

The Morning News

Beyond the Known
May 02, 2011

The New Yorker

Galleries - Chelsea
Mar 21, 2011

The Examiner

The Solar System revolves around Chelsea this month
Mar 17, 2011

The New Yorker : Photobooth

Michael Benson's Star Searh
Feb 08, 2011

Wall Street Journal

Feb 03, 2011

New York Observer

Beyond Point and Shoot : Michael Benson
Jan 13, 2011


Jan 01, 2011

The New York Times

Marveling at Wonders Out of This World
Jul 28, 2010

Voice of America

Photos Reveal Stunning Perspectives of Space
May 26, 2010

Going out Guide

‘Beyond: Visions of Our Solar System’ exhibit at the Air and Space Museum
May 21, 2010

Smithsonian : Air & Space

From Beyond
May 18, 2010

Los Angeles Times

'Far Out: A Space-Time Chronicle' by Michael Benson
Feb 28, 2010

The Boston Globe

Celestial Wonders : Spectacle of Space Captured by Machines
Apr 25, 2009

the Atlantic

A Space in Time
Jul 01, 2002


Michael Benson

Cosmigraphics: Picturing Space Through Time
Oct 14, 2014

Michael Benson

Planetfall, Artist reception
January 24, 2013

Michael Benson

Beyond, Artist's Reception
Feb 03, 2011



Oct 14, 2014


New Solar System Visions
Oct 11, 2011


Visions Of The Interplanetary Probes
Oct 03, 2003