In order to create her expressive and captivating series “Stars,” Ellie Davies combined images of the Milky Way, Omega Centauri, the Norma Galaxy and other celestial phenomena with “mature and ancient” forest landscapes that speak to the age and history of our earth. The result is a breathtakingly elegant set of images that revels in it seemingly simple subject matter while offering its audience a platform for existential introspection and rumination.

Stars 8. © Ellie Davies. Fine Art Single Image Winner, Magnum Photography Awards 2017.

Confronted with elements (the monumental trees, the glimpses of stars) that resonate with timelessness and deep history, we as viewers can’t help but to recognize our own impermanence. The dream-like compositions of Davies’ photographs encourage this introspection; not only are her shots beautiful, but they also offer us the space and tranquility necessary for meditation on our human condition. Davies offers us a gift with this series: the chance (an opening) to consider how our lives compare to the enchantment of these age-old natural marvels.

Stars 5. © Ellie Davies

The relationship between humanity and the natural world was part of the driving force behind the series’ inception. “‘Stars’ explores my desire to find some balance between a relationship with the wild places of my youth and my pervasive sense of disconnectedness from the natural world,” says Davies. “Today, the majority of people live in urban or semi-urban environments, experiencing the landscape from a distanced position mediated through technology and various media. From this viewpoint, the notion of the landscape in all its sensuous materiality, our being within it rather than outside it, seems beyond reach.”

Stars 13. © Ellie Davies

The ethereal landscapes in “Stars” are captivating—they draw the viewer into a quiet, sanctified space that is at once recognizable and foreign. The celestial images, captured by the Hubble Telescope and appropriated by Davies, are subtly overlaid and therefore not immediately identifiable. And yet, as a viewer, I did not feel alienated or unsettled by these images—quite the opposite. Davies was aware of the potential for detachment with this series, and she actively worked to subvert it: “The [Western] landscape experience often alienates the viewer from the scene and—just as the landscape itself becomes an object—a separation arises between them. ‘Stars’ addresses this distancing by drawing the viewer right into the heart of the forest, which still holds mystery and offers the potential for discovery and exploration.”

Today, our relationship with nature is fragile and (unfortunately) often finite, constrained to moments slotted in between frenzied interactions and obligations. Take a moment today to lose yourself in Davies’ immersive series.

—Coralie Kraft

Davies’ image “Stars 8,” above, was the Fine Art Single Image Winner in the Magnum Photography Awards 2017. Discover more inspiring work from all 41 of the winners, finalists, and jurors’ picks.

If you’d like to see more work like this, we’d recommend the following articles: Stardust, a pensive, poetic contemplation of the cosmos and the fluid nature of time; Cosmos, images of our galaxy that are exposed to bacteria and warped in a meditation on photography and the act of creation; and Sun, Earth, Energy, Life: Coal, a series of microcosmic abstractions that pays homage to coal’s remarkable composition.