CAN 3 Exercise 2.2
Recreate a childhood memory in a photograph.
The childhood memory I’ve chosen to recreate is the night of the Apollo 11 moon landing, which for me encapsulates everything about the late 1960s when the world seemed to stand at the threshold of a bright new science-led future. It was also the peak of the psychedelic era – the influence of 1967’s Summer of Love was by now ubiquitous and Woodstock was just a month away – and even that owed everything to the chemistry lab. I was 11 years old and lived on a British Army patch in West Germany. My parents had gone to an all-night moon-landing party and had given me permission to stay up and watch it live on TV as I babysat my younger sisters and brother. I remember my awe and wonder at the vast blackness of space extending in every direction beyond the astronauts’ immediate surroundings as I understood for the first time that we too are floating on a speck of stardust in an infinite universe… which was, I suppose, my own first mind-altering experience.
I realised that I was not going to be able to recreate this memory in a realistic manner unless I was prepared to buy a 1960s TV set and armchair, so I decided to go down a similar route to the one Anne Turyn used in her Flashbulb Memories and concentrate on creating an atmosphere instead of a literal representation, ignoring the presence of anachronistic technologies. I started by taking a shot of myself sitting on my sofa wrapped in a blanket (as I was on the night in question) in the late afternoon when there was a gentle natural light coming in to the east-facing room which I hoped would approximate moonlight. I then masked out the window panes in Photoshop to reveal a black fill layer, placed a picture I took of the moon a few months ago on another layer and a still from the moon landing on yet another one. I chose to mask the windows with solid black to give a sense of the vast blackness of space as I suddenly understood it that night. I resized the moon to reflect its importance in the story rather than its true-to-life proportions, distorted the moon landing image to fit the perspective of my tv screen, and brightened the white 1960s ball lamp below the TV to make it more like the moon.
I feel my image fairly accurately conveys the feelings of wonder and awe I experienced that night. The room is not at all like the original one, which had patterned upholstery and carpet and colourful abstract paintings on the walls. Neither have I captured the cultural context of the period as it was expressed in clothing, hairstyles and music… I did consider attaching the soundtrack of the advert for the German chocolates Sprengel SiebenStück which I think was played in every ad break for the entire night, but decided that would limit the potential for people who didn’t watch the event on German TV to relate to it and instead am providing the link for any viewer who would like to include that part of the experience.
References and resources
Turing, A. (2010) Flashback Memories. Available at http://anneturyn.com/image-text-portfolios-1980s/flashbulb-memories–1985-1986 [accessed 14.06.18]
WarOfTheSaucermen (2016) Sprengel SiebenStück – Das ist die Sprengel-SiebenStück-Melodie zum Tanzen. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNP8wJXKJ6w [accessed 14.06.18]