NASA Lunar and Viking Orbiter images highlight Heritage Vintage Photography Auction
Rare private astrophotography collection provides outer space insight, at Heritage, April 18
When three rare and extraordinary extraterrestrial images - one each from NASA's 1967 Lunar Orbiter Missions IV and V, and an original Mars mosaic from the 1976 Viking Orbiter 1 - cross the auction block as part of Heritage Auction Galleries' April 18 Vintage & Contemporary Photography Signature Auction, it will give a special interplanetary flavor to an already spectacular international event.
The images, from a private collection of Lunar and Planetary Exploration, are equal parts space and fine art photography. They were, in fact, carefully chosen by the consignor precisely for that reason.
"The consignor formed the collection over a period of more than four decades," said Lorraine Anne Davis, Heritage's Director of Vintage & Contemporary Photography. "With the eyes of an art historian, he acquired artifacts that would fit as easily into an art museum as they would into a science museum. At this point, only a small fraction of the collection has been exhibited in the United States and abroad, so this represents a unique opportunity for the right collectors."
These composite images reflect two of the most exciting periods of space exploration: the late 1960s, when the U.S. and Russia were engaged in an all-out race to get to the moon first, and the late 1970s, when the possibility of just simply seeing Mars - let alone sending mechanical landers and potentially humans to the surface - became a reality and humanity got its first look at the desert landscape of The Red Planet.
The two Lunar Orbiter photographs are both composed of gelatin silver contact prints. The Lunar Orbiter Mission IV H-184 Telephoto Lens photograph is composed of 10 panels that gave NASA an excellent look at the pock-marked lunar surface, while the Lunar Orbiter Mission V M-43 Wide-Angle Lens photograph, made up of three prints, is a stunning view that rolls over the dark surface of the moon to engage the horizon, and the rising light, at the top of the frame.
The Mars image from the Viking 1 Orbiter, 45 individual gelatin silver panels precisely assembled into a mosaic of the Martian surface, was part of a crucial effort on NASA's behalf to familiarize itself with earth's second-closest planetary neighbor, as Mars exploration was - and is - considered the next logical step in humankind's stellar baby steps in exploring our own solar system. The collage is a haunting, disjointed look at the surface of another world, and it typifies the keen eye for art that the consignor used in assembling this remarkable collection.
To view the entire catalog for this auction, read detailed descriptions and download full-color, fully enlargeable images, go online.