The most expensive photographs ever taken

Daniel Blau Gallery exhibits rare NASA shots that map the moon at Paris Photo
NASA, Surveyor 7, Moon Surface, Day 020
NASA, Surveyor 7, Moon Surface, Day 020



Grand Palais, Paris, France

From: 10 November 2011
Until: 13 November 2011

Paris Photo

Opening hours:
Noon until 8 pm (7 pm Sunday)
Late opening on Friday: until 9.30 pm



The Daniel Blau Gallery is to exhibit at Paris Photo what it claims to be some of the most expensive photographs ever taken. The rare 1960s images taken by NASA of the lunar surface, form part of a private collection. The magnificent landscapes can be compared to Gustav Le Gray’s seascapes or his large prints of Fontainebleau.

NASA, Surveyor 7, Moon Surface, Day 020NASA, Surveyor 7, Moon Surface, Day 020

Brad Feuerhelm, Director of Daniel Blau’s London Gallery, told Phaidon they were taken from an unmanned spacecraft. "It would photograph the surface of the moon as it was going past. They would develop the film on board, all chemicals, totally automated, and then the images would be transmitted back to the States and developed on magnetic film, just like a VHS tape. So they would take each little strip of negative and put it together. Ninety five per cent of the moon was mapped like this. 

“All these are vintage, they have the Kodak stamps on the back aligning to the time when Kodak was making a particular paper. Or they have US Government or they have laboratory or JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) stamps. The collection came from one person who has been storing this stuff away for 30 years until there was a market for it. There were a number of them but they didn't last because they didn't have any value. Agencies just chucked the stuff away.”

“Everything comes to market at some point, it's just a question of whether it’s appreciated before it is scrapped,” Feuerhelm continued. 

“In terms of market, these mosaic pieces seem to have been saved quite early on. Again, these are great because you have the contact print, each print woven in. Can you imagine somebody scrapping that? It's where photography inadvertently transcends photography to become object status. It becomes more of an object when you see the physical staples on the surface, there’s a three-dimensional thing going on."

NASA, Moon SurfaceNASA, Moon Surface

The ongoing emergence of photography as a collectible and increasingly highly valuable form of art is one we’ll be returning to in more depth tomorrow when we bring you an interview with the director of Paris Photo 2011, Julien Frydman. Meanwhile, look out for pictures from the public opening day of the show on Phaidon’s Tumblr page tomorrow.


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