01 August 2019 Reviews

Apollo’s Muse; the Moon in the age of photography

One of many books published to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, this highly illustrated volume is published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. This fact alone gives a firm indication of its style and content which, for the sake of clarity, is not that of a science text or engineering manual.

As its publicity reveals, the book “surveys the role of photography in the scientific study and artistic interpretation of the moon from the dawn of the medium to the present”. It is designed to accompany an exhibition at the museum, which also included videos and astronomical instruments, but this does not detract from the book.

The 120-odd images in the book range from the obvious bootprint on the Moon to the much less obvious ‘rocket dress’, an A-line creation embellished with an image of an Atlas launch. In between are early sketches of the Moon made through telescopes, film stills and science-fictional guesses at its surface characteristics, blurred TV images from 1969 and equally blurred artistic renderings. Readers may not like all they see here, but that is the nature of art!

The book comes complete with a list of works in the exhibition, reference notes, a bibliography and an index. It is also graced with a foreword from that visual media go-to-guy, Tom Hanks, who (in considering the ‘was Apollo worth it’ question) opines: “Even the ranting of idiots who can’t comprehend the grand potential of our human abilities…cannot devalue the accomplishment of our going to our mysterious moon…”. Too right… and, by extension, why not celebrate it with an art exhibition?

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