Macro image of semen. Photo: "Male Milk #1" from the series Milky Way 2015/Maija Tammi

The Photographer Who Sees Space in Semen

Kaleigh Rogers

Kaleigh Rogers

That galaxy is actually jizz.

Macro image of semen. Photo: "Male Milk #1" from the series Milky Way 2015/Maija Tammi

​ Sex and space don't exactly go hand-in-hand. The cold, sterile, vastness of space seems at odds with the hot, sticky, intimacy of human sexuality. And, as Motherboard has explored in the past, there are a lot ​of issues when the two intersect. But for the Finnish photography collective '11,' combining sex and outer space seemed like a no-brainer.

"For one, sex and space are the two biggest mysteries in life," Maija Tammi, a documentary photographer and member of the collective, told me. The group's latest project sprung from a conversation one of the collective's artists had with a friend after sitting through a particularly dull lecture.

"His friend turned to him and said, 'Don't the professors realize that the only things people are interested in are space and sex?'" Tammi said. The group—all of whom studied in the University of Tampere's visual journalism program—tackles an annual themed project together and thought "space and sex," was a perfect theme for 2015. ​

Each of the artists approached the theme in his or her own way. Tammi used a macro lens to photograph breast milk and semen samples on a black lacquer table top to create swirling galaxies of bodily fluid.

Macro image of breast milk. Photo: "Female Milk #2" from the series Milky Way 2015/Maija Tammi

Her colleague Konsta Leppänen styled sex toys with glittering liquids to look like dreamy alien spaceships.

Photo: "Expedition #1"/  Konsta Leppänen

Photo: "Expedition #2"/  Konsta Leppänen

Ossi Ahola captured shots of plush, human-sized, anatomically-correct dolls that Tammi explained are used to help teach developmentally-challenged adults about sexual health. They're lifelike and yet alien:

Photo:"Onni (Luck), 2015"/  Ossi Ahola

Photo:"Onni & Lempi (Luck & Love), 2015"/Ossi Ahola

And  Touko Hujanen documented state highway 375 in Nevada, which passes by Area 51, legal brothels (including some alien-themed ones), and the Nevada Test Site, where 828 nuclear bombs have been tested:

Photo: "Burning Man, 2014"/  Touko Hujanen​

Photo: "Bikini's brothel, Nevada, 2013"/Touko Hujanen

The project will culminate at an event combining s​cience, art and journalism in May at the Heureka Science Centre in Vantaa, at an exhibition at The Photographic Centre Peri in Turku as well as the release of a book of all the images.

"We are reclaiming space and sex from the hegemony of porn and hardcore science," Tammi told me, emphasizing how the photos differ from the images we're used to seeing of both sex and space. "There's this romanticized view of space and yet we can't really capture it. We have photos of the Milky Way, but it's like trying to photograph a house from inside the basement."