Live from the Moon

Curated by Geoffrey Batchen and Carys Owen
14 April – 6 May, 2023
The Barn, St John’s College

This exhibition comprises a selection from a personal archive of gelatin silver photographs sent out as press prints by NASA in the 1960s and ‘70s to publicize the American agency’s efforts to land men on the moon.

These images were typically shot with video cameras and automatically transmitted to Earth as radio signals from spacecraft. They were then reconstituted by computers in the form of photographs and distributed to the press via the electric telegraph. The resulting photographs hover between abstractions and documents, requiring extensive captions to explain their otherwise puzzling appearance. These images also sometimes bear the visual traces of noise or glare, or a superimposed grid of cross-marks to aid their analysis. Attention is thereby drawn to their complicated means of production and to their own existence as things (rather than just pictures of things). Facilitated by rockets and high-tech communications equipment, these photographs are the products of an American military-industrial complex that was simultaneously bombing Vietnam abroad and suppressing civil rights at home. This context is represented in the form of music from the 1960s played in the gallery. As a total exhibition, Live from the Moon therefore embodies both America’s achievements and its shortcomings.

Geoffrey Batchen is Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford. 

Carys Owen is a BA student in History of Art at St John’s College, University of Oxford. 


14 April: Public opening 16:00 - 18:00

26 April, 17:00 - 18:00 : Curator Geoffrey Batchen with Daniel Molland, doctoral student in Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. They will discuss the role that photographs play in space exploration and related research, whether photographs of the moon are to be taken as propaganda or science, what is Oxford’s contribution to the current space race, and does photography play a part in that contribution? 

3 May, 17:00 - 18:00: Curator Carys Owen with Sarah Hill, Professor of Music at the University of Oxford. Carys will be asking her about the role played by popular music in social protest in the late 1960s and ‘70s. How important was music in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movements? Is there are a comparable role for popular music today?

Talks will take place in the gallery space.

NASA (USA), New York, Dec. 12—From above—Planet earth is seen from the moon’s surface Tuesday, with portions of the lunar rover and its antenna showing in the foreground. (AP Wirephoto from CBS), 1972, 12 December 1972gelatin silver photograph17.7 x 22.1 cm (image)
Moon 1972 Associated Wire Press Photo (USA), After unfurling the American flag, the astronauts photographed each other. Cernan (right) got set to snap a picture of Schmitt,12 December 1972 gelatin silver photograph 19.0 x 26.5 cm (image), Private Collection
NASA (Photo No. 67-H-30) Telephoto frame number 75, HAMPTON, Va. This photograph was taken by Lunar Orbiter II of secondary site 5 in its mission to photograph potential manned landing sites on the Moon. This is the single frame taken with Orbiter’s 24-inch telephoto camera and is composed of 27 of the 86 framelets which make up a complete telephoto frame. If the frame were complete its center would be at 158° E longitude. This is an oblique photograph of the far side of the Moon aimed at the southern hemisphere. Viewed with the band of edge data at the right, north is at the top and the Sun is at the left at an angle of 21° above the horizon. This photograph was taken Nov. 20, 1966 and relayed to the Goldstone, Cal., station at the deep space network Dec. 3. Lunar Orbiter was at an altitude of 910 miles when it took the picture. The Lunar Orbiter Project is managed for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration by the Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. The Boeing Company, Seattle, is the prime contractor. 20 November 1966gelatin silver photograph23.4 x 19.0 cm (image)

The Barn, St John’s College ♿︎ 

St Giles, University of Oxford

Opening times:

14 April: 16:00 - 18:00

15 April: 12:00 - 17:00

16 April: 12:00 - 17:00

21 April: 12:00 - 17:00

22 April: 12:00 - 17:00

23 April: 12:00 - 17:00

26 April: 16:00 - 18:00
27 April: 12:00 - 17:00

28 April: 12:00 - 17:00

29 April: 12:00 - 17:00

30 April: 12:00 - 17:00

3 May: 16:00 - 18:00
4 May: 12:00 - 17:00

5 May: 12:00 - 17:00

6 May: 12:00 - 17:00