One thing I do know was that for me, and most people I knew, the moon landing happened in black and white. Yes, there were some famous pictures printed in Sunday magazines, but they felt less real than the grainy black and white images.
In the summer of 2019 Apollo 11’s mission was remembered and celebrated. Much of the TV footage shown was in colour, and now colour made the event more real and immediate, I remembered the excitement, looking at the moon and knowing there were humans there.
NASA’s image library is an archive of still and moving images of all the NASA missions and open to public use. The images in this book are all taken from that library and are all in colour, as the astronauts saw it at the time.
At the same time as the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11, I developed a problem with my sight and needed an operation. The distortion in my sight both before and after the operation are replicated in the images – how I might have seen the moon landing if it happened now. The moment of the operation itself is represented as darkness
The book takes images from the NASA archive, sequenced along the journey to the moon and back. All are colour. While I am used to seeing images of the moon landing in black and white, this is partly because everything was black and white in 1969. Looking at the same events in colour is interesting. For example, the colour images highlight how frail the Lunar Module looks – it seems to be covered in tin foil. But also, it is a reminder that this is what the astronauts saw.
At about the same time as the 50th Anniversary celebrations I was diagnosed with a VMT (Vitreomacular Traction Syndrome) which if left untreated, would have lead to a hole in my macula, so that I would have no vision in the focal part of my vision. My vision was slightly distorted and after a while I could see the small hole developing at the centre of my vision. The treatment, which involved having a bubble of gas injected in my eye, affected my sight for some weeks. I have used PhotoShop to manipulate the images to represent what I could see at points along the way. These are representations rather than reproductions.
In order to save the book with double-page spreads I have published it using Issuu (see below). The 12 mainpulated images are:
The book has text. I’ve used Futura, which seemed appropriate and also turns out to have been used on the Lunar Module. However, the text is difficult to read in the Issuu version. The introduction is the first paragraph of this post. Other text is and so it is reproduced below.
All original images are from the NASA Image and Video Library.
NASA Media Usage Guidelines
Still Images, Audio Recordings, Video, and Related Computer Files for Non-Commercial Use
NASA content – images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format – generally are not copyrighted. You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages.
News outlets, schools, and text-book authors may use NASA content without needing explicit permission. NASA content used in a factual manner that does not imply endorsement may be used without needing explicit permission. NASA should be acknowledged as the source of the material. NASA occasionally uses copyrighted material by permission on its website. Those images will be marked copyright with the name of the copyright holder. NASA’s use does not convey any rights to others to use the same material. Those wishing to use copyrighted material must contact the copyright holder directly.
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
Exerpts from President Kennedy’s address at Rice University on September 12, 1962.
https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm [accessed 4th October 2019]
The NASA Image and Video Library brings together material from 60 separate collections. The material is free to use for schools (which I take to mean education) with NASA credited. The images have good notes about what is being shown in the photograph.
Other work on a similar theme
I’m sure there are any number of cases where material about space travel has been used. An example that stands out for me is The Race for Space album by Public Service Broadcasting, which samples audio from the BFI archives to tell the story of the space race 1957 (Sputnik) to 1972 (last Apollo mission) across 9 tracks. For me, the combination of archive voices with mixed electronic music, guitars and drums works well – the archive clips tells the story and with music providing atmosphere and emotion.
Because part of the content is about how my condition and the operation affected what I see, I looked at the work of blind photographers. This is a really interesting subject in itself. There are a number of photographers with visual impairment and at least one collective, Seeing with Photography, where the sighted and visually impaired work in partnership to produce images. In most cases, it is difficult to tell that the photographs are made by people with any problems with their sight. This is not surprising – the images tend to be about whatever the photographer is pre-occupied with, not necessarily about their blindness.
Ian Traherne has 5% of the sight he was born with. His photographs allow him to record scenes that he himself cannot fully see. His website shows mostly black and white photographs. They tend to be quite dramatic – certainly those in chosen for the BBC post are. Whether this is because they are dramatic or because they more obviously illustrate the topic, is difficult to tell. These have a dark background with the centre brighter, which reflects, rather than disguises, his own vision. However, this is not the case with all the images shown on his website.
Pete Eckert and Sonia Soberats both use light painting in their images, but they are very different. Eckert’s image tend to be in very bright colours and feel altogether more commercial than those of Soberats. Her images are images are black and white, often somewhat out of focus. I feel she takes a more creative approach to producing the images. for example, in one she covers her models’ face with wet crepe paper to try to simulate stone. Soberats works with an assistant, but I believe Eckert does not.
The Blind Photographer is a book (and exhibition) of work from visually impaired photographers. Again, the images are rarely about blindness. Some do suggest that the photographer looks to reproduce the world as they see it.
Palmira Martinez’s Untitled, Mexico 2012, is an image of a swimmer in a red swimsuit in a blue green pool. There is motion blur, so the water appears as broken reflection and refracted light. What I like about this images is that the blur makes the colour contrast of three areas – the blue-green of the water, the red of the swimsuit and the yellow of the swimmer’s skin the focus of the image.
Mickel Smiten is a dancer who makes images of dancers. Some of the images have motion blur, but all they convey a feeling of the movement of the dance, perhaps because Smiten is attuned to that movement.
In Nudes (2007) Gerardo Nigenda superimposes Braille on images of a nude and blind folded woman who is being touched by a man. The Braille is not simply added to the photograph as a block or title – it is added to areas touching (fingertips) and those being touched (toes, legs, face, neck). The combination provides two ways to read the painting that is very intimate. This makes them, for me, the stand-out images of the book, though I can’t read Braille. Also, although the photographs are pin-sharp and indistinguishable from images that might be made by a fully-sighted photographer, these images are about blindness.
Jay Zukerkorn is a photographer with Parkinson’s Disease who decided use the tremor as part of his photography. The resulting images, in a series he calls Movement Disorder, features beach scenes and so have a bright but limited colour scheme. Edges are blurred and people becomes indistinct figures. They are not dissimilar to images taken with intentional movement disorder, but the shake is not are not so regular and decisive. They are attractive images but also communicate some of what it feels to have the disease’s tremor.
Demonstration of technical and visual skills
The basic skills needed here were layout of the book and manipulation of images. I used the Lightroom book module because I wanted a consistency across the images and the originals, as a set were in a variety of sizes. Also, I wanted a simple and clean solution.
The choice of images was made partly on the basis of telling the story (Apollo 11 launch, Lunar Module descent, on the Moon, Lunar Module leaves, recovery. In addition I needed to choose images that would allow the effect I was representing to show up. For example, the final effect I wanted to represent is quite small, so I needed my final image to have obvious straight lines.
The manipulation of the images was really a case of trial and error with PhotoShop features until I could give an impression of what I had seen or was seeing. This was time consuming rather than technically difficult.
Finally getting the book to appear as double page spreads took a lot of time until I figured out how to do this using Issuu.
Quality of outcome
I am reasonably happy with the final book. I think it works as a story and showcases the NASA images.
Demonstration of creativity
I’m not sure about this one. The book is a sort of diary and so not creative so much as recording.
Although I’ve described this as a diary, I tried to put his in the context of others with physical problems that affect or inform what they see. This has not been particularly successful as I have not found the breadth of resource I expected. I can continue to look into this, but that does makes it post hoc.
Pete Eckert: http://peteeckert.com [accessed 4th October 2019]
NASA Image and Video Library https://images.nasa.gov [accessed 4th October 2019]
Geraldo Nigenda https://www.gerardonigenda.org.mx/en/work/nudes [accessed 4th October 2019]
Sonia Soberats: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/blind-photographer-paints-with-light-creating-stunning-images-58502861/ [accessed 4th October 2019]
Ian Treherne https://iantreherne.co.uk [accessed 4th October 2019]
Ian Traherne – BBC article https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-48135931 [accessed 4th October 2019]
Wired: How Futura became the first typeface to land on the Moon https://www.wired.co.uk/gallery/futura-font-on-the-moon-christopher-burke-book [accessed 4 October 2019]
Rothenstein J and Gooding M (eds) (2016) The Blind Photographer. Redstone Press London