Michael Light & Andrew Chaikin - Full Moon

After going through the photos and essays in this book over the past couple of days my warm summer night's swim tonight under a full moon took on a whole new meaning. In this excellent "coffee table" style book, Michael Light has used the latest digital techniques to bring us some beautiful photographs that have been kept in cold storage for two to three decades. I was too young to remember the Apollo missions, but these pictures and the captivating essay by Andrew Chaikin allow everyone, regardless of age, to live through the experience for the first time (or again).

Full Moon begins with 57 black-and-white and 72 full-color photographs in chronological order as if you were leaving earth, heading for the Moon, landing there, exploring, and then heading back for home. No commentary or captions are included at this point. Then "Apollo Mission Data" is given for all of the manned Apollo Missions (1967 to 1972). A two page schematic follows which shows how the missions went about actually getting to and from the Moon. Andrew Chaikin's seven-page essay is next. The essay is just right. It doesn't ramble on, but it does provide enough information to inject additional life into the photos without becoming the focus of Full Moon and therefore taking something away from the dominant aspect of the book--the pictures themselves. He touches on several points that stood out in my mind as well when I went through the photographs for the first time before reading his essay. Namely, the strange nature of the views from the Moon due to its lack of atmosphere. The ground is exceedingly bright, and the sky is incredibly dark. Shadows loom much greater than on earth, and items in the distance are crystal clear thanks to the missing distortion that atmosphere causes in photos taken on earth. Michael writes for almost five pages after Andrew on how he obtained the pictures, why he chose the ones he did, and how the book is set up. Finally, thirteen pages of thumbnails are included with detailed captions for each picture.

My three-year old has asked me to go through all the shots of the Moon at least twice now. He has a great time ooing and awing at the spectacular views. Figuring out where his friends live on earth and what parts of the Moon he wants to explore when he becomes an astronaut has been fun for him too.

If you are one of the millions who frequently suffer from lunar madness (especially on a warm summer night with a good pair of binoculars handy) then you will love this book. If you've yet to discover the Moon's majesty, then Full Moon will probably send you down this enjoyable road.

from the publisher:
The most thrilling of all journeys--the missions of the Apollo astronauts to the surface of the Moon and back--yielded 32,000 extraordinarily beautiful photographs, the record of a unique human achievement. Until recently, only a handful of these photographs had been released for publication; but now, for the first time, NASA has allowed a selection of the master negatives and transparencies to be scanned electronically, rendering the sharpest images of space that we have ever seen. Michael Light has woven 129 of these stunningly clear images into a single composite voyage, a narrative of breathtaking immediacy and authenticity that begins with the launch and is followed by a walk in space, an orbit of the Moon, a lunar landing and exploration, and a return to Earth with an orbit and splashdown.

Graced by five 45-inch-wide gatefolds that display the lunar landscape, from above the surface and at eye level, in unprecedented detail and clarity, Full Moon conveys on each page the excitement, disorientation, and awe that the astronauts themselves felt as they were shot into space and then as they explored an alien landscape and looked back at their home planet from hundreds of thousands of miles away.

Published on the thirtieth anniversary of Apollo 11--the first landing on the Moon--this remarkable and mesmerizing volume is, like the voyages it commemorates and re-creates, an experience both intimate and monumental.

Michael Light is an artist and photographer based in San Francisco. His work is in the collections of The Center for Creative Photography and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His photo-novel, Ranch, was published in 1994.

Andrew Chaikin, who contributed an essay to this volume, is the author of the definitive study of the Apollo missions, A Man on the Moon (1994), which was the basis of the award-winning television series From the Earth to the Moon.