Earthrise – copyright NASA Apollo 8, taken by Bill Anders, processed and licence by Jim Weigang
A picture is worth a 1,000 words was my mantra as a travel PR over the past quarter century as I tried, sometimes in vain, to persuade tourism practitioners to invest in photography. It has become an increasingly valid statement in our Instagram and selfie obsessed world where the mobile is king. So as I ponder the last decade, it was a reminder of the importance of an historic image that most struck home for me. The image I am talking about is of course better known as Earthrise, one of a collection of shots taken by Apollo 8 Flight Engineer Bill Anders. It wasn’t meant to have been taken, it was not on a list of authorised shots which were deemed important, the focus being on simulating a lunar landing not looking back at earth. But as chance would have it, and most appropriately on Christmas Eve 1968, our beautiful, fragile earth came into view whilst in lunar orbit and the crew raced to capture the shot – the first colour image taken of Earth from deep space by a human being.
The startling beauty of earth against a black velvet backdrop is said to have given impetus to the fledgling Environmental Movement with the first Earth Day celebration taking place on 22nd April 1970. It was included in Life Magazine’s 100 Photographs that changed the world edition with wilderness photographer Galen Rowell calling it “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken”. Without these priceless images, where would we be today? Would Greta Thunberg have had the impact she has? Would we – in this new decade – be hearing about The Earthshot Prize?
Earthrise – copyright NASA Apollo 8, taken by Bill Anders
On 1st January, 2020, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced The Earthshot Prize alongside Sir David Attenborough – a project which the Duke termed the “most prestigious environmental prize in history”, encouraging and inspiring people across the world to find innovative new solutions to one of the gravest problems facing the Earth – “People can achieve great things. The next ten years presents us with one of our greatest tests – a decade of action to repair the Earth.”
Earthrise revisited – composed of a series of images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera on 12th October 2015 / NASA