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I’ve been ogling ‘Apollo Remastered’ by Andy Saunders

This book is a collection of photographs of the Apollo missions to the moon. I managed to pick it up for £10 in a sale, while Waterstones are still listing it at £60.

The photographs taken during the missions were obviously taken on film. The film has been stored in a secure freezer ever since, the better to stop it degrading. The films were recently defrosted, cleaned, and scanned at extremely high resolution. Despite this, the quality of the images themselves remains relatively poor: for example, as they were designed to be back-lit, they tend to be underexposed.

Andy Saunders took those detailed scans and manipulated them to produce authentic yet extremely clear versions. He talks in detail in the book about how he went about this, and how he chose to judge the line between accurate representation and artistic manipulation.

I found this fascinating to flick through. I had expected to be drawn mostly to the detailed photography of the technology of the era, but in fact, that didn’t affect me much at all.

There were three things that stood out.

Firstly, the wonderful photographs of the astronauts. Many of these look like beautifully shot and lit portraits. They bring out the humanity of the endeavour, and it helped me to understand the personal risk each of them took by participating in this programme. Every human being who has ever walked on the moon is included in this book. It is also impossible not to be struck by the fact that all twelve are white American men.

Secondly, the astonishing pictures of the earth. I’ve seen many of these pictures countless times over the years, but seeing them presented in this book, in stunning clarity, gives something of a new perspective.

Thirdly, the focus on the USA. It has never really struck me before how absurd it is to have a spacecraft floating in magnificent isolation with the letters ‘USA’ painted on it. I’ve never truly considered the madness of planting an American flag on the moon. But there is something about contemplating the astonishing photographs in this book which made me think about how narrow one’s view of the world must be to ‘brand’ the mission as the product of a country.

A couple of months ago, I watched and recommended the film Apollo 11, composed entirely of archive footage of that mission. My reaction to the film was to be awed; my reaction to these photographs was more contemplative. I think both are worth seeking out.

This post was filed under: Art, Post-a-day 2023, , .

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