The pitted plains of the moon were always an ideal subject for photography, waiting to be fixed in portraiture ever since the invention of the telescope, and a perfect canvas for the purity of black and white images. The photographers involved in earlier astrophotography are many and several have work shown in this online exhibit. One duo's work of the late 19th century in particular needs mention. As this exhibition shows, the legacy of Parisian astronomers Maurice Lowey (b. 1833) and Pierre Puiseux (b. 1855) is a rich one, encompassing their decade-long study, which resulted in a photographic atlas of the moon composed of 10,000 photographs (1910’s “L’Atlas Photographique de la Lune”).
Indeed, the Lowey-Puiseux collaboration was, arguably, the signal achievement in 19th-century lunar photography, bringing together the multiplicity of moon views captured by early astronomical photographers. Thus, this exhibition surveys the many striking images of the moon’s topography--images that brought people closer than they had ever been, outside of observatories, to our closest celestial neighbor. These photographs immerse the viewer in the moon’s familiar and unfamiliar regions, from its poles to its “seas” and the great craters that bear the famous names of their earthly discoverers.
The wonderful clarity and scale of these images --unmounted heliogravures--offer a dreamlike clinic in the tonal depth and chiaroscuro richness of early photography. The moon’s monochrome palette, after all, enabled relatively true representation long before the prospect of color photography complicated the medium’s aspiration toward portraying the true-to-life. Instead, the moon’s thousand faces in stunningly shadowed close-up become the photographic emblems of a new scientific realism, lifting humanity’s vision into space, beyond lunar metaphor and cliché, to powerfully affirm the desolate beauty of Earth’s satellite.