An homage to Mr. Armstrong.
By now, the passing of Neil Armstrong is old news. As an explorer, Mr. Armstrong had only a handful of living equals. As the history books go, he will probably have but three: Christopher Columbus, Charles Lindberg and Yuri Gagarin. Only time will tell how carefully we remember the second two. I mention this not to detract from the countless others who contributed to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs’ successes—this seems to be a pretty standard feature of human record-keeping, after all, who can name another member of the Columbus crew?—but to illustrate a point: there was a time when no one had walked on the moon, and there is now.
The man who sundered that bit of history forever was Armstrong.
The moon has long been a favorite subject of mine. As a second dominant light source, as a fellow traveler, as an impossible destination for us Earth-bound and world-weary mortals, I am simply drawn to Luna. Of all photographers who have framed our satellite, however, Mr. Armstrong will forever be one of the greatest: he didn’t just do the impossible by actually going there, he took amazing photographs!
Yet, the moon’s influence on me goes beyond photographic inspiration: the Apollo crews used modified Hasselblad 500 EL/Ms and, though the film era had long been in decline, the association drew me inexorably to owning a Hasselblad. To this day my dad calls it the “moon camera,” and, quite simply, using it has brought me closer to the moon.
Think for a moment what an unprecedented photographic opportunity was given these two adventurers. To bring back on long spools of 70mm film the first images of another world. Grainy TV images may have come in (near) real time, but they were nothing to rival those gorgeous frames captured on celluloid. Imagine further the joy of being the first to see such strange and powerful images on the light-table; to stare through a small, colorful gelatine window at a new and silver world.
Here is my homage to Mr. Armstrong, Luna winking through an early twilight above San Francisco’s Chinatown, bathed in gold and covered with tourists and shoppers bundled up against the marine layer threatening to move inland from our sea of tranquility.
Thank you Neil.