Photography BA (hons)

Riikka Neste

The Poetry of Heaven

Stab bound digital and analogue photographs and images on paper and acetate with ribbon

I wanted to create a visual intersection of the scientific and the sentimental approach in which humans relate to outer space in an attempt to make sense of, and find meaning in, our collective and individual existence on Earth.

I used three astronomy books as source material, including A handbook of descriptive and practical astronomy, combining illustrations of measuring scales and devices with my mostly abstract photographic work.


Source material

George F. Chambers, A Handbook of Descriptive and Practical Astronomy, (Oxford, 1889-90)
DiscoverEd URL

Shelf mark

Special Collections: O*11.14-15*

Playfair location: O*11.15

Riikka Neste

Portrait & interview

1. What was it about this project and brief that originally appealed to you?

I thought it would be a good opportunity to challenge my ways of working, both in a practical sense and in terms of subject matter, as a lot of my recent work has drawn influence from my personal past.Usually my thinking process starts from something very close to me and expands outwards in its meaning, this time I had to reverse that process; choosing something outside of the familiar and finding a way to draw the idea closer to my own experience.Also, I was not very familiar with the Special Collections beforehand, and thought this was a great chance to learn more.

2. What was your approach in searching for material that you wanted to work with?

I started off by using the online search tool, typing in any keywords that came to mind. At the beginning I had no idea of what I wanted to find, so I let chance play its part in my selection process. I ended up choosing books based on no other information than the title, and at first spent hours in the reading room going through all kinds of different material.I only started forming some kind of direction for my project after physically interacting with the books, and picking up what aspects of them I was most drawn to.

3. Did you find anything about the project challenging?

As I can be quite indecisive in my creative processes, I found the vast amount of material a bit overwhelming at first. At the same time it is why I found this project so interesting. I could’ve easily spent all of this year just researching without making anything concrete, if there had not been a time limit. 

4. What unexpected discoveries did you manage to make during your research?

As I didn’t have anything specific I was looking for from the source material in the beginning, all of my discoveries were in a way unexpected.

5. How has this project had impact on your art practice?

I think it has definitely opened my mind for different working methods I would not necessarily had considered before.I want to continue searching for source material to work with through new channels, might even try to re-do this project with other material from Playfair. Even though I had some experience with bookmaking before, considering all the different ways this project could be finalized and seeing other people’s work along the way has made me excited to experiment more with books in the future. 

6. Did your final output end up as you’d envisaged?

How my book ended up is nothing like what I had in mind in the beginning, or even half-way through this project, but that is what I hoped would happen anyway.At the beginning the work I made for this project moved in several different directions visually, some of them found a way to merge along the way and the restI let go of or used to make something new out of.

7. What advice would you give to someone doing this project next year?

I think I spent too much time researching different subject areas that I could possibly work with, before searching or going to see any of the books. I was intimidated by the amount of possibilities and scared of making wrong choices with choosing the material. Things started to move much more easily once I began interacting with the books.

Copyright & open licence

Copyright © Riikka Neste, The University of Edinburgh 2020 CC BY-SA

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

CC BY-SA license