In the context of an exhibition of photographs at Suite Gallery titled Live from the Moon, a conversation will be held in the gallery between its curator, the art historian Geoffrey Batchen, and Haritina Mogoșanu, Senior Science Communicator from Space Place at Carter Observatory.
The conversation will be moderated by Matt Plummer, a Digital Research Consultant in the Centre for Academic Development at Victoria University of Wellington. The purpose of this event will be to determine the significance of photographs like these: as collectables, as scientific evidence, as documents of the space race, as Cold War propaganda, as vernacular art objects, and as staging posts in the history of both photography and digital imaging.
Live from the Moon comprises a selection of gelatin silver photographs sent out as press prints by NASA in the 1960s and ‘70s to publicise the American agency’s efforts to land men on the moon. These images were sometimes shot with video cameras and automatically transmitted to Earth as radio signals from spacecraft. They were then reconstituted by computers in the form of photographs and distributed to the press via the electric telegraph. On other occasions, photographs would be taken of images seen on television monitors while these were being broadcast to Earth in real time. More rarely, the photographs were taken with hand-held cameras by astronauts from the windows of their space capsules. However they were produced, the resulting photographs are often strange to look at, hovering between abstractions and documents, and requiring extensive captions to explain their otherwise puzzling appearance. Tracing a history of human efforts to venture into space, these photographs also offer an important staging point in the development of digital imaging and therefore in the history of photography itself.