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NASA Photographs

Light Gallery

A gallery show of photographs made in space and on the moon will inevitably incite all the usual arguments about whether a work of art can be made by a non-artist or a machine. The slipperiest thing about reviewing NASA’s pictures, though, is not the fact that they were made for technical and documentary purposes, but that what they show is so exotic and extraordinary, and without a counterpart in most of the earth’s art. Gene Thornton has commented on these photographs disapprovingly, implying that there was something devious about them since, although they purported to be documentary, they reminded him of some of Walker Evans’ and Harry Callahan’s work. There is a curious kind of truth in the latter perception, but it has nothing to do with the astronauts’ knowing about fine photography, or even with their having picked up a vernacular style that may derive from, say, Evans.

Instead, one

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