Michael Fried at nonsite:
For me the deeper interest of Struth’s photograph is thematic: the upper half of the composition is dominated by the under-surface of the Space Shuttle with its diagonal grid of heat-defying ceramic tiles; the implication is that the young woman in the left foreground and perhaps also the two men farther back and to the right are working on these. That they are doing so is nothing less than a matter of life and death. That is, it is absolutely crucial to the success of the Shuttle’s missions and the survival of the astronauts inside it that the tiles resist the formidable heat of reentry and even more that they do not come loose from the surface of the Shuttle. This may seem to go without saying, and in a sense it does, but taking this photograph as thematic for the series as a whole (as its position early in the exhibition catalogue encourages one to do), it also suggests that there will be no tendency in the series to shift the implied locus of agency away from human beings to the technology itself—a point driven home by the fact that this is the only one of the technology photographs to include human agents.