Cirque du Soleil's Guy Laliberté Photographs Earth From the Final Frontier
For 11 days in 2009, Guy Laliberté, the Quebec-born founder of Cirque du Soleil, traveled through space aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket and returned with thousands of photographs, a few of which we preview. En route to the International Space Station, the former street artist, whose global circus sensation has made him a billionaire, snapped off pictures of Earth with his Nikon D3S and Nikon D3X digital-SLR cameras; his trip was intended both a way to raise awareness of the diminishing supply of clean water, and to have a jolly good time. Gaia (Assouline) collects 102 of Laliberté’s transcendental images—taken from 220 miles above ground, traveling at 17500mph. We sat down with the clown-cum-cosmonaut to discuss his unique adventure.
How long have you been taking pictures?
I always was a hobby photographer. I always have my camera when I am traveling. This project was quite special. I think these pictures are quite distinctive from others taken from space. It’s a spirit I was in, a little bit like when you are on Earth looking at clouds. I have a series of characters, animals, organic shapes.
For someone who hasn’t (yet) been to space, what am I missing?
To see Earth from a different perspective. The almost spiritual aspect, the physical experience, the weightlessness. Moving your body in a way you can never do on Earth. Of course, there were a few things I would have avoided—the medical check is rather invasive.
Were you ever scared?
No, no. Before you sign up they evaluate your tolerance of danger. You know that there is some risk; there are some moments that are more critical and you are conscious of that. But it is not my nature to nurture fear.
How will the book benefit One Drop, your foundation to raise awareness of the plight of clean water sources?
All the proceeds and my royalties go to raise money for the One Drop. Eventually there will be a photo exhibition and we’ll sell the prints. This photo project has the potential of raising $10 million for One Drop.
If and when you return to space, where would you go?
Since I was a little kid think I have always thought if there is an alien space ship that comes and they say, “let’s go," I’ll go. Returning to space, I don’t know. With the shuttle program no more, pretty much all of the seats on the Russian ships will be purchased by Americans. Because this trip was so much of a personal challenge, and I loved going through the training, when I was up there I promised myself that every five years I will try to give myself a personal challenge. Maybe next time I will climb one of the big mountains, which probably needs more training than going in space.
I don’t know if I will start with Everest. In 5 years, my daughter will be 18, so that will be a good thing to do together.