By Jane Pickering 

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing on 20 July 1969, A Wave of Dreams Arts Lab in Kings Road, St Leonards, is hosting an exhibition of original photographs taken by the Apollo astronauts both on the Moon and during their amazing space journeys from and to the Earth.

Here are well-known images – the stunning blue orb of earth seen for the first time from space, the first boot print on lunar soil – but also some unique finds, such as the contact sheet showing Buzz Aldrin’s descent down the ladder from the mothership onto the Moon’s surface, step by step. There are also extraordinary artefacts such as the beautifully embroidered mission badges the astronauts wore on their space suits. 

Buzz Aldrin

The standard of the photography is astounding as is the quality of the prints in this exhibition. Its curator is Alastair Fairley, whose late father, Peter Fairley, accumulated the archive in the course of his coverage of the Apollo missions for Independent Television News (ITN) in the 60s and 70s. Alastair explains: “the astronauts were all given lengthy training in the techniques and composition of photography. And they were using Hasselblad cameras – the best in the business and specially designed to be operated in the void of space.”

The photographs on display are just a small part of what is now called the Fairley Archive of Space Exploration (FASE), a large collection of prints, autographs, transparencies and other NASA paraphernalia Alastair inherited from his father. Importantly, all the photographs on display are  printed direct from the original, large-format transparencies produced by NASA itself. This explains the richness and depth these prints – unlike their digital counterparts – possess. Some of them are for sale for around £200.

Fairley has some abiding childhood memories from trips to the USA accompanying his father on assignment. He recalls being on the steps of the White House when he was just five years old; President Kennedy was receiving the ‘Mercury 7’ group of pioneering astronauts among whom Fairley spotted his hero, John Glenn. “I slipped away from my father,” he recalls, “and ran across to John Glenn just as President Kennedy reached him in the line. I didn’t care at all about meeting the President… I just wanted to say hello to my hero and tell him I wanted to be a spaceman too! I suddenly felt myself being scooped up and the next thing I knew, I was on President Kennedy’s shoulders… the press photographers went mad.”  

Curator Peter Fairley

In addition to the exhibition the Gallery is hosting a talk by Fairley about the Archive, and two screenings of Nichola Bruce’s award-winning  film “Moonbug”, which documents encounters with surviving lunar astronauts as photographer Steve Pyke travelled across the States to create their portraits. The pre-shoot chatter between Pyke and his subjects provides some unique, unguarded moments and some moving reminiscences about the emotional, as well as physical, challenges of a lunar mission. 

The exhibition continues until 30 July and is open every day 12.00pm – 4.00pm except Sundays. Events (all £5 to include a complimentary drink)
19 July 6.30pm Screening of “Moonbug” followed by Nichola Bruce in conversation with Alastair Fairley
25 July 6.30pm Illustrated talk about the exhibition, the Fairley Space Exploration archive and NASA by Alastair Fairley 
27 July 6pm Screening of  “Moonbug” followed by Q&A with director Nichola Bruce.

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