Lunar Orbiter I. Triptych Showing Man's First Look at the Earth from the Moon, 1966
Silver gelatin print
48h x 60w in
121.92h x 152.40w cm
Aldrin Walking Toward Armstrong, 1969
vintage color print on semi-matte fibre paper
9.96h x 7.99w in
25.30h x 20.30w cm
NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration] NASA Lunar Surveyor Mosaic for Day 117, Survey D. Sectors 1 and 2, 1966
Vintage Gelatin Silver Print
30.25h x 14.25w in
76.83h x 36.20w cm
Lunar Orbiter, 1967
Vintage gelatin silver print
24h x 20.30w in
60.96h x 51.56w cm
First Colour Photo Taken on Mars, 1976
JPL presentation color print on semi glossy paper on original masonite mount
24.02h x 27.52w in
61h x 69.90w cm
Moon Rock will run July 16th to October 5th | An opening reception will be held July 16th, 6 - 8 pm.
Jason Jacques Gallery | Moon Rock
Fifty years after the launch of the Apollo 11 mission, Jason Jacques Gallery is thrilled to present Moon Rock, an exhibition of some of the first works of art made in space including the original, first-ever photograph taken of the Earth from the Moon. It is an ode to one of the most exciting moments of the twentieth century— the Space Race.
The exhibition is the most comprehensive assembly of rare and highly collectible silver gelatin prints from the original NASA negatives taken in orbit during the 1967 Lunar Orbiter fly-bys, as well as images from Soviet spacewalks and Viking 2, the 1975 Mars landing program. Pre-dating digital photography, these images were taken and developed in space, and beamed back to Earth as gigantic chunks of analog data, for printing. The film developed in space fell to the lunar surface along with the orbiters at the end of their mission.
Given the cost of space exploration they are also the most expensive photographs ever taken. The Lunar Orbiter program, adjusted for inflation, would have cost over 1.2 billion dollars today. The 1975 Viking Mars mission would have cost around from 5 billion, the camera and imaging system alone clocking in at 100 million.
NASA is responsible for generating much of the most iconic imagery of the twentieth and twenty-first century, but the original, hard-copies of said images are few and far between— this comprehensive exhibition explored the images that shaped a global culture. These prints are engineer’s copies printed by NASA for use within NASA, press purposes, and study collections.
These prized vintage prints go from as low as $2,400 up into the high ten thousands— they also make for an absolutely sublime visual experience, because there is literally nothing like them on earth.
The question of whether a space vessel, or even the NASA team responsible for it, can produce an exhibition-worthy photograph is beside the point. The boundaries around art are made to expand, not contract— and as the discussion surrounding technology and art deepens, it’s apt to call these images something beyond science.
We reached out to Dr. David R. Williams, the NASA archivist in charge of preserving archival data and print-matter. His career at NASA’s Goddard Earth Sciences Data and Information Services Center has spanned twenty five years, much of it spent watching over historical objects like these. On the topic of twenty-first century viewership and the intersections of science and art, he had this to say:
“When I first started working at Goddard, the large Lunar Orbiter prints were some of the first things I was shown from the data archive. I still remember thinking how beautiful they were, and knowing the story behind them made it even more amazing. I see so many pictures from space that seem to me to be just as much art as anything else I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem to me that just because the main purpose behind some creation was scientific that it couldn’t also be considered art. I’ve never thought of the two as being mutually exclusive.
"My first impression about these was a sense of astonishment that with the limited technology of the time they could still manage to fly these missions and return photographs of this quality. I think it says a lot about human ingenuity that’s always been a little inspiring.
"Just like with old Ansel Adams photos, or photography of famous historical events, I really like the idea of being transported back and getting a feeling for what it must have been like. And let’s face it, a lot of the 21st century audience wasn’t alive for the short period we actually put humans on the Moon. This was the precursor to that. This was some of the best information we had about the Moon before we went, and I have to think that’s pretty moving for any audience— but especially one that didn’t live through it themselves."
Links below to related articles:
National Gallery of Art | Smithsonian | Space.com
Jason Jacques Gallery is located at 29 East 73rd Street, Manhattan.