These photographs were taken by my father when he was 13 years old, during the live broadcast of the Apollo 11 Moon landing on 20 July 1969. He shot the images that were on the TV screen, developed them himself in a darkroom and mounted them on a piece of cardboard.
I can remember these pictures hanging on the wall in his room in my grandparent’s house. When my grandparents died, my father inherited their house. The photographs disappeared for a while, but I recently found them lying on the floor in a dark corner of the cellar.
I’ve never asked my father why he took these photographs, but what I see in them is an eagerness to hang on to what must have been a fantastic moment. There’s something beautiful in the belief that it would be possible to preserve the aura of this transmission of an event that was taking place on another planet by photographing it.
Before the signal finally hit screens in numerous countries on Earth, watched by around 600 million people, there was a time delay when all that was visible was the frame-rate number and band-width conversions. What is actually seen in my father’s photographs is the noise and disturbance from these electrical conversions, radiation and signal enhancement; not to mention the paper discoloration, scratches, dust, dents and stains from the decomposition of the print materials. Yet in this accumulation of noise and distortion I find myself staring directly into my father’s moment of wonder. To me, it looks as if he was there, when humans were stumbling around on the surface of the Moon like children, in a triumphant achievement of modern technology. It is because of the disturbances of mediation and the decay of the prints that I accept this truth of the document. And although great efforts were put into the precision of broadcasting the event and the photographic documentation made by my father, it is in the failure of this precision that I find authenticity.
After the images’ proud days on the wall of my father’s room, they lapsed into waste on the cellar floor, but on rediscovering these old artefacts, discarded and forgotten, I decided to take them with me. By doing this, I’ve become the protector of the gaze of my father as a child, and maybe also the gaze of the world in a brief moment when human technological achievement seemed boundless.
Arild Våge Berge is an artist and publisher, lives and works in Bergen.
In our very first issues, we invited different people to write about an image they found memorable, under the headline ’Sinnbilde’, a column inspired by FOAM Magazine. Now, in Objektiv’s 10th year, as the ocean of images continues to swell, we’re reigniting this column online.