Who remembers watching those almost unbelievable pictures of Neil Armstrong, commander of Apollo 11 taking that “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” at 03.56am on Sunday, 21 July 1969? Millions of TV viewers around the world watched as he was joined by fellow astronaut Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin and the two began collecting samples of moon dust and rock. How hugely important it was capturing that moment photographically. During the next three years, six missions to the moon were made and a total of twelve astronauts walked on the moon. During these missions thousands of images were taken, most of them with the Hasselblad 500 EL. Many of these images are famous, like the one from Apollo 11 showing Buzz Aldrin with Neil Armstrong reflected in the glass of his helmet.
Why I have concentrated on the photographic aspect of this tremendous event is that one of our own Brentwood photographers, Peter Elgar, had strong connections at the time. That year was extra special for Peter. He was studying for his Royal Photographic Society qualification and ABIPP. He then worked for the Geology Department at London University College and was excited when he was commissioned to take pictures of rock and dust samples from the moon landing expedition. Here we see an illustration of the minuscule dust particle – looking a little like a stuffed olive, and Peter’s contribution was duly recognised and appreciated. His ‘moon dust’ pictures appeared in many newspapers and journals.
Peter’s photographic work is well known. He is Past President of Brentwood & District Photographic Club. When asked about the aspect of the craft he enjoys most he reckoned: “Processing. It’s the most exciting part of the operation. In the early 1950s, I learnt how to develop and print my own work and concocted my own developing mix. At the time I bought photographic paper from my chemistry master at one penny a sheet. My first camera was an Ensign Selfix costing £24 10s (£24.50) saved from my pocket-money.”
Peter’s experience is wide, covering most aspects of photography, including weddings, portraiture, fashion, industrial and all forms of commercial work. This point was reached in 1969 which was the point at which he took those historically important moondust photographs.