Roberta Bondar

The first Canadian woman to have flown in space, Dr. Roberta Bondar is a trained physician, scientist, astronaut and photographer.

At an early age Bondar was interested in photography as both her father and uncle were photographers. In fact, during her university graduate years, Bondar developed new colour techniques for photomicroscopy and worked extensively in black-and-white. In medicine, her fascination with looking at life-forms through a lens led to her specialization in neurology with an emphasis in neurophthalmology, which examines how we see and record the world around us.

In 1992, Dr. Bondar flew as an international astronaut on board the Space Shuttle Discovery. Noted for her ability to record and communicate, she was chosen to perform experiments in life and material sciences on behalf of 14 countries. Using many different camera types, she photographed through microscopes and portholes, everything from plants and humans to the landscape of Earth.

Later she wrote, “The intriguing planet from afar held new wonders of patterns without texture beneath that canopy of blue green. If I had been able to reach outside of the orbiting spacecraft with my hand, surely I would have felt the layers of colours that define our Earth.”

Since her journey, Bondar has felt compelled to translate the awe and wonder that her eyes glimpsed from space. After her return she studied at the prestigious Brook’s Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara California, where she was an honors student in Professional Nature Photography.

In 1997 Bondar’s images were chosen by Ann Thomas, Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Canada to be included in a ground-breaking exhibition, Beauty of Another Order – Photography in Science.

Roberta Bondar then spent two and a half years photographing all 41 of Canada’s national parks for a best selling book, Passionate Vision: Discovering Canada’s National Parks. The exhibition was curated by Ann Thomas, and mounted and toured by the Canadian Museum of Nature. Bondar’s third book Canada : Landscape of Dreams is a love letter to Canada that combines 50 new images with quotes from 45 distinguished Canadians. Both books were published by Douglas & McIntyre.

Dr. Bondar’s interest in the extremes of the planet propels her to continue to capture stirring images of the Earth with her large- and medium-format cameras. Diane Farris Gallery has showcased work from three recent series: Earthland (2004), images of Canada and the far North,  Deserts in Time (2006), desert photographs from around the world – from the Arctic to the American southwest, from the Mojave Desert to Libya and Egypt, and Canadian Canopies (2009) which captured the natural beauty along with the environmental and cultural importance of trees to Canadians.