Le Grand Pouce (Large Thumb), tupperware and the birth of consumer society // POP ART DESIGN at Barbican Gallery exhibit, London

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Photos by Veronika Lukasova 2013. All rights reserved.

The exhibit that starts today brings together 200 works by over 70 artists and designers, including iconic and lesser known works by Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Charles and Ray Eames, Gaetano Pesce and Ettore Sottsass.

Pop artists commented on the cult of celebrity, commodity fetishism and the proliferation of media that permeated everyday life in America and the United Kingdom after the Second World War. Radically departing from all that had gone before, artists delighted in adopting the design language of advertising, television and commerce to create work that was playful but often also intentionally irreverent and provocative. In turn, designers routinely looked to Pop Art as a constant source of inspiration. Pop Art Design paints a new picture of Pop – one that recognises the central role played by design.  -  http://www.barbican.org.uk/artgallery/event-detail.asp?ID=14797

Mennene fra Mars // my “Men from Mars” article in a cult Norwegian magazine VAGANT

I am very please that my article about two of the Mars 500 simulated mission to Mars participants Diego Urbina and Romain Charles was also published in a great Norwegian magazine VAGANT. If only my Norwegian was better to be able to read the well selected content. The magazine is also a total graphic design treat.


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EASTREET // Exhibition of street photography from Eastern Europe 3-30.10.2013 / Lublin, Poland

One of my photographs from an ongoing series about Eastern Europe “ROADSIDE PICNIC”  will be featured at the EASTREET exhibition opening  this week [4.10.2013] in Lublin, Poland. http://eastreet.eu/

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Exhibition of street photography from Eastern Europe
3-30.10.2013 / Lublin, Poland / Opening: 4.10.2013

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In my article published this week in Zen magazine,  European members of the Mars500 crew Diego Urbina and Romain Charles speak about their strategies to fight boredom, longing for beach and proper food. Pls clik on the image to see the article on Zen website.


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In my article published this week in Zen magazine,  European members of the Mars500 crew Diego Urbina and Romain Charles speak about their strategies to fight boredom, longing for beach and proper food. Pls clik on the image to see the article on Zen website.

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GREETINGS FROM THE WATERLESS SEA OF TRANQUILITY: The story of the Colonel Aldrin’s gold visor photo // 44th anniversary of the Moon landing

GREETINGS FROM THE WATERLESS SEA OF TRANQUILITY: The story of the Colonel Aldrins gold visor photo

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Written by Veronika Lukasova and Sebastian Duthy


According to conspiracy theorists, the first Apollo moon landing in 1969 was faked by the US government. After the USSR had successfully fired Yuri Gagarin into orbit at the beginning of the 1960s President John F Kennedy promised to put an American on the moon by the end of the 60s. For the USA, losing round two of the space race at the height of the cold war was just unthinkable. Added to the fact that a rocket propelled into deep earth orbit would provide proof of the US government’s ability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, the theories begun in the 1970s were plausible then and persist today.


The most compelling evidence of a lunar landing – the photographic record of the moon’s surface – now lie frozen, deep within a NASA vault in Houston, Texas. Four decades ago, the story of the landings unfolded through the voice and video transmission of Apollo commander Captain Neil Armstrong. As his feet touched the lunar surface for the first time, he spoke the immortal words; “One step for man. One giant step for mankind.” But while every schoolchild still learns the immortal phrase today, the video images no longer accompany the words. Arguably the most enduring legacy of the mission and one of the most iconic images ever taken is the snapshot of Buzz Aldrin waving to the camera at Tranquility Base. Even then New York Times singled it out from what was described as a spectacular batch of Apollo photos. “From an artistic point of view the picture that drew the most comment here tonight was the one with the scene at Tranquility base reflected in Colonel Aldrin’s gold visor”. With the advances in satellite technology, the image travelled around the world faster than Gagarin in his capsule years earlier. But while this single image offers no real proof of the first moon landing, it is what lies in the whole photographic record contained in the 125 photographs taken by the astronauts from the surface of the moon that can point us to the truth.


No one doubts the fact the image was made with a Hasselblad camera. NASA’s relationship with Hasselblad cameras began in the early 1960s. Walter Schirra, who would go on to fly the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, started the ball rolling. He already owned a Hasselblad 500C, picked up in a used Houston camera store. He made some minor modifications – stripping the leatherette from the body and painting its metal surface black in order to minimize reflections – and then took photos of the Earth from his Mercury Atlas 8 orbiter in October 1962. The heads of NASA were impressed and approached the company. Viktor Hasselblad, a keen nature photographer, had been producing medium format cameras for use by the Swedish military in World War II. Two decades on, his aim of capturing the lucrative commercial market was beginning to take off. Only not for the same kind of pictures that he enjoyed.


As the 1960s drew to a close, America found itself undergoing unprecedented social, political and cultural change. The numbers of troops sent to fight the war in Vietnam was rising steeply. After the assassination of Martin Luther King, his civil rights message of nonviolent action was fast losing its grip on a generation of young blacks. In the arts, photography – once the moral compass of social conscience – was being taken over by a new generation determined to establish a new convention. The original hipstamatic generation wanted to experience life, not try to reform it and established a new documentary form.


To date, Space photography had followed a strictly scientific approach. John William Draper, an English-born American scientist, philosopher and photographer took what are generally regarded as the first significant photographs of the moon in 1840. Amazingly sharp black and white photos show the alien landscape of the moon. A hundred years on, images of space were beamed back to us from space itself. Soviet engineers pioneered the use of cameras to document the far side of the moon and Venus, automatically developing and scanning the film for transmission back to Earth. By 1961, Gherman Titov, the second Russian cosmonaut in space, took the first photo ever taken by man of the Earth. This objective black and white photo taken with a hand held Konvas camera, was nevertheless earth shaking. It not only marked an irreversible shift in the way we view our world but it was also provided evidence of the power contained in an image.


Ernst Wildi was working for Hasselblad at the time and would later go on to write the astronauts photography manual on the Space shuttle program. He was invited to instruct the Apollo astronauts. He remembers teaching basic technique with his own family slides: “The cameras the astronauts were encouraged to use were the space models, equipped with the same lenses and viewfinders they would use in space.” But worryingly he remembers little enthusiasm for the devices. “There was little reaction from the astronauts after the lectures, certainly not the reaction that comes from photographers. I assume there were other topics on their mind, not photography.” In 1968 there was no shortage of reasons to be an anxious astronaut. Not least because the film studios were raising the stakes. 2001:A Space Odyssey was quickly followed by Planet of the Apes.


On the July 1969 mission, Apollo 11 astronauts carried four cameras. A specially designed version of the motorized 500EL, the “space” model, was equipped with a modified Biogon lens with a focal length of 60mm and a polarization filter mounted on the lens. A glass plate (Reseau-Plate) with reference crosses placed at the focal plane of the camera to correct for distortions in the images. This would enable scientists to use them for precision measurements. There were a total of 1407 exposures made on 9 magazines of film; 857 images on BW film and 550 on color. The Ektachrome film had an ASA rating of 160, which was considered fast but not the fastest. It had a special thin base provided by Eastman-Kodak to compress more frames into a single roll.


On return to the Earth the film with still images from the Moon were quarantined for the fear of lunar germs. They were then developed and released by NASA in two batches. The first included photos of the footsteps on the moon. NASA had held back what they expected to be the best shots so they would not be lost if some defect turned up in the processing as the first group went through. With no apparent problems, two days later, the second batch exceeded all expectations.


If you go to NASA’s website today you can see every frame of the 129 images shot on magazine S. Just as NASA’s rover Curiosity sends images of Mars back to Earth today, so too did the images of the moon’s crust capture the imagination of people all over the world. But of these images exposed while on the lunar surface, only one has stood the test of time. Armstrong would later liken walking on the moon to being that of a five-year-old boy. With the picture he has captured some of this emotion. Restricted by his complex and unwieldy space suit and coming to terms with low gravity, Buzz Aldrin seems for a moment in a state of complete awe.


President JFK’s promise to reach the moon by the end of the decade was the only thing he could think of to restore the nation’s pre-eminent status. In the face of communism it would be a symbol of the country’s noble and righteous path. And it all rested on the three astronauts of Apollo 11. NASA engineers never doubted that the technology existed to achieve their goal but only the image of a man on the moon would provide a basis of proof for a mission that would otherwise stretch the bounds of credulity. This was something the Soviets already knew. After Yuri Gagarin had triumphantly returned to earth, The Soviet Space mastermind, Sergey Korolev released photos of Gagarin supposedly taken right before the launch. But these images had been simulated several days earlier. His genius was to realize he could not leave such a moment to chance.


So if the US government had faked the moon landings, they certainly had allowed NASA to employ some dodgy photographers. In interviews, Aldrin is always asked about this photo: “This shot was not posed. Neil told me to turn around, and that’s why my hand is up in the air, sort of casual. When people ask me – and they do ask me all the time – what it is that’s so significant about this picture, I can’t resist answering: ‘Location, location, location!”


Copyright Veronika Lukasova and Sebastian Duthy

Republishing of the article in whole or part only with a permission.