Episode 15: Space Illustrator James Vaughan

Born in 1955, James Vaughan grew up in the idyllic surroundings of a small town near Akron, Ohio. His father was a scientist and director of research for one of America’s largest corporations. His mother was an artist and a poet.

Vaughan completed high school a year ahead of his classmates and in 1972 left for Chicago and college. He studied both photography and journalism and, while still a student, his freelance work appeared in many of the city’s major magazines and newspapers.

After he earned his degree, Vaughan took a job as an assistant with a large commercial studio. Then in 1977, during a long and cold Chicago Winter, he converted an entire floor of an old factor into his first studio.

Over the next twenty-five years, he worked at the forefront of Chicago’s advertising and fashion industry and was commissioned for a wide variety of advertising and editorial assignments. “My original training in photo-journalism served me well,” says Vaughan. “It brought a sense of realism and sincerity to my work. I have always thought of myself as a storyteller. That’s what the word ‘photography’ really means – ‘to write with light.’”

“I can’t say I was much of a financial success,” laughs Vaughan. “Most of the money went to new ideas and experiments. We were all mad-scientists back then, pushing the envelope in search of the next break-through image.”

With the arrival of the 21st Century, and its limitless digital technology, James Vaughan has been able to return to his small-town roots. Now back in Ohio, he has taught at nearby Kent State University and built a new state of the art studio. “This is the most important time for my work. Away from the demands and distraction of the big city I can be even more creative,” he says.

“After all these decades, I finally have the skill and technology to catch-up to my imagination!”

In this episode, Beth and James discuss:

  •         James’ background in photography and his youth during the space race.
  •         The power of aesthetics in the space program.
  •         Where James finds his inspiration as a space illustrator.
  •         The modern mythology that is the new space exploration.
  •         The role art has always played in new scientific endeavors, including space exploration.

Key Takeaways:

  •         Illustrators, artists, and creative talents are needed in the space program.
  •         When we apply our imagination, we help to share and interpret ideas.
  •         You can do anything…if you love it, you will find a way.

“Surprise! We live in space. Right now, all the time. The idea that we won’t go farther than our front yard is sort of silly. I know there will be ups and downs and trials and tribulations, but it’s inevitable that the human race will expand further and further out into the universe.” — James Vaughan

Connect with James Vaughan:

Website: JamesVaughanPhoto.com

About Beth Mund:

Beth’s love for space started as a Space Camp attendee at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where she would return years later as an instructor.  After grad school, Beth worked as a journalist, a technical writer for Motorola, and then went on to serve as a Public Affairs Officer for the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. In addition, Beth worked to support the International Space Station program as a communication specialist. In Chicago, Beth worked as a corporate communication advisor to Fortune 50 companies including Allstate and United Airlines. She’s worked as a college instructor, a political advisor, and public relations manager for her hometown city. Beth recently founded Stellar Communications, LLC and travels the country as a keynote speaker- inspiring audiences with her lessons learned from our nation’s space program.  She’s the host of the Casual Space Podcast, and a self-proclaimed space geek.

Connect with Beth Mund:

Email: askbeth@casualspacepodcast.com

Website: bethmund.com/casualspace

Facebook: @Casual Space Podcast