July 22, 2021 by Barbara Orbach Natanson
The following is a guest post by Micah Messenheimer, Curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division.
This week’s anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a perfect opportunity to explore our holdings of lunar photography in the Prints & Photographs Division.
From the medium’s beginnings, the moon fascinated photographers as both a subject of scientific inquiry and as poetic muse. Early efforts to photograph the moon were often met with failure due to the low sensitivity of available materials.
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre attempted photographs in his eponymous process around 1838 that were described as “fuzzy and low in details,” by his advocate, François Arago. Successful photographs of the moon using the daguerreotype process would not be made until over a dozen years later, when the celebrated Boston portrait photographer John Adams Whipple sought the assistance of Harvard astronomer William Cranch Bond and his son, George Phillips Bond.
Using the college observatory’s Great Refractor telescope, they captured the sphere in its waxing gibbous phase on March 14, 1851.