A Didactic Photography Book For Aliens

In 'For the Aliens', Léo Berne uses personal photography to explain life on earth.


In his photo book For the Aliens, Léo Berne repurposes his personal image archive to create a visual introduction to life on this planet. With reference images ranging from simple (a plane, the color green) to abstract (melancholy, death), this is a guide book to earth intended for those who’ve never been.

“I take pictures like a tourist. I collect, sometimes arrange, sometimes stage some moments of my personal life,” Berne says. “With time, the photographic image, by its concrete reality, takes over the abstract mental one, it consumes it.”

In For the Aliens, Berne takes this idea of photo-as-reality and runs with it, using his photos to build a record of what it feels like to be a person existing, right now, on this planet. The Paris-based photographer shot these images all over the world.

“In this book, I use 20 years of my personal photography to explain the earth to the aliens, somehow offering an intimate alternative to NASA’s formal message of the Golden Records sent to space in 1977,” Berne says. Released into space aboard the Voyager spacecrafts, the Golden Records are phonograph records intended to give an idea of what life on earth was like to any intelligent beings who might encounter them. The records include messages in 55 ancient and modern languages, the sounds of various animals, wind, waves, and music from various cultures, as well as 115 images.

The choice of which cultural artifacts should be included on the Voyager probes was controversial. How could the diversity of human history be represented in such a small number of images? It’s obvious that the picture of life on earth included in the Golden Records was highly subjective and swayed by the personal interests of the people who put it together.

It is here that Léo Berne takes up the legacy of NASA’s odd project, seeking to “question how personal photography can be a subjective window to reflect our world.” By creating an archive for extraterrestrial life that’s made up only his own photos, Berne highlights the inherent subjectivity of all photography.

“The order of the pictures follows a sort of stream of consciousness, each picture responding to the previous one. From nature, to transports, to human activities, finishing with feelings and death, I try to approach the maximum of subjects that my material allows me.”

For the Aliens is available from &co119. The softcover book has an appropriately holographic green cover. Shipping is free worldwide from September 22nd to 30th, celebrating the one-year anniversary of the book’s publication.

Find more of Léo Berne’s photography at his portfolio, built using Format. He’s also selling prints on his portfolio store.

This is a sky

This is a shadow

This is an umbrella

These are suburbs

This is a woman

These are friends

This is a motorbike

This is shopping

This is calling

This is a plane

This is a honeymoon

This is hair

This is laughing

This is a party

This is cleaning

This is tasting

This is green

This is TV

This is a gunshot

This is melancholy

This is the wind

This is old

This is travelling

This is dusk

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