Hidden Gem, Hidden Photographer

April 19, 2013 § 1 Comment

Photo: Hank Walker, LIFE Magazine, 1957.

This photo is one of my absolute favorites. An accomplishment in both composition, lighting and planning it is a hidden gem of industrial photography. Hidden because it wasn’t published until 2009.

The size of the JPEG above does not do the photo justice, as you can hardly make out any of the intriguing details. How do you light a room full of reflecting spheres and make it look good? And how do you make yourself and the camera as invisible as possible?

If you look closely you can maybe make out the shape of the photographer in the middle of the large, golden sphere on the drawing board. In the large, printed version, you can see that the photographer has placed the camera exactly in the non-reflecting spot in the  middle of that sphere. Very clever. The photographer himself is however too large to be entirely hidden by the spot.

The photo was taken by photographer Hank Walker in 1957. He was sent by LIFE Magazine to document the development of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory’s Project Vanguard – the American satellite program. Some of his photos were published in the June 3, 1957 issue of LIFE, but the one above did not see the public light until the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing.

Moonfire is one of my favorite photo books. Published in 2009 it contains excerpts from Norman Mailer’s Of a Fire on the Moon, accompanied by beautiful photos from NASA, LIFE Magazine and other contemporary sources.

Here is another cleverly planned photo from the same story, where it seems Walker is shooting through the grey sphere behind the engineer.

Photo: Hank Walker, LIFE Magazine, 1957.

In the only other mention I’ve found on these photos, you can read more about the Vanguard project and see more B/W photos from the LIFE article. I haven’t been able to find much biographical information on Hank Walker, but here is a photo of the guy and here are some more of his photos, most of them from LIFE.

Moonfire is still in print and highly recommended! You can get it here.

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§ One Response to Hidden Gem, Hidden Photographer

  • ystein Haarklau Johansen says:

    Denne blogposten var herlig ! Og for ikke si, herlig nerdete! Helt enig, bildet er skikkelig kult.

    Det kan vre veldig kult med planlagte, “oppstilte”, gjennomtekte bilder. Jeg har vrt vant med tenke “naturlig er bra”, men et foto vil aldri gjengi virkeligheten 100% uansett, det dreier seg jo om formidling.

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