The View from Space

Gary Hart Photography: Let There Be Light, Planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way (August 21, 2017)

Let There Be Light, Planet Earth, Solar System, Milky Way (August 21, 2017)

Here’s my eclipse story

If you follow me on social media, you know that I don’t get political online. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have political opinions, but photography needs to make you happy, and there are already too many unhappy photographers to inject politics into the mix. I’ve also learned, and I have the people I’ve met in my workshops to thank for this, that individuals with completely different social and political beliefs are not idiots, uncaring, morons, crazy, or whatever other pejorative you might be inclined to hurl. They’re good people who arrived at their values and beliefs through a completely different combination of family history, opportunities, life experiences, good/bad fortune, and present circumstances, than you and I have.

But I’m writing this post because yesterday, like millions of others, I shared a completely black image on my Instagram page to show my support for BLM. Not only did I feel like solidarity on the issue of police not killing innocent people is important right now, I also thought, wow, here’s something everyone can agree on. And for the most part I was right—I was thrilled to see the truly diverse support this simple act received, crossing traditional political and social boundaries.

On the other hand, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that this support wasn’t universal. I got a little pushback on my Facebook page (swiftly dealt with—to borrow from the late, great Tom Petty, it’s good to be king), and noticed that the number of followers of my Instagram page, which goes up every day, declined yesterday—from that I can only infer that some people were reflexively unfollowing anyone who posted a black image. To those people, I say good riddance.

Call me an optimist (or naive), but I’m hopeful that the United States has finally reached a tipping point, and real change is in store. So to pivot from politics to photography, I’m sharing this image from the 2017 total eclipse, because nothing in my portfolio expresses my hope better than the instant of sunlight’s return after a total solar eclipse. For those who haven’t had the privilege to witness one (mark your calendars for April 8, 2024), a total solar eclipse is one of those transcendent moments in nature where humans’ insignificance is impossible to deny. I don’t think I’ve ever felt smaller than I did at the instant I clicked this picture.

Because I can’t help but think that so much of our planet’s divisiveness would evaporate if we all had a clearer picture of our place in the Universe, I’m going to close with a few quotes from astronauts, who are uniquely qualified to speak on the subject:

  • Anousheh Ansari, the first Iranian in space: “The actual experience exceeds all expectations and is something that’s hard to put to words… It sort of reduces things to a size that you think everything is manageable, all these things that may seem big and impossible… We can do this. Peace on Earth — No problem. It gives people that type of energy, that type of power…”
  • Neil Armstrong: “It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” 
  • Ron Garan, Shuttle and International Space Station astronaut: “When we look down at the earth from space, we see this amazing, indescribably beautiful planet. It looks like a living, breathing organism. But it also, at the same time, looks extremely fragile.”
  • Edward Gibson, Skylab astronaut: “You see how diminutive your life and concerns are compared to other things In the universe.”
  • Jeff Hoffman, Space Shuttle astronaut: “You do, from that perspective, see the Earth as a planet. You see the sun as a star – we see the sun in a blue sky, but up there, you see the sun in a black sky. So, yeah, you are seeing it from the cosmic perspective.”
  • Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 astronaut: “You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.’”
  • Nicole Stott, Space Shuttle and ISS astronaut: “We have this connection to Earth. I mean, it’s our home. And I don’t know how you can come back and not, in some way, be changed. It may be subtle. You see differences in different people in their general response when they come back from space. But I think, collectively, everybody has that emblazoned on their memories, the way the planet looks. You can’t take that lightly.”

The View From Earth

Click an image for a closer look, and to view a slide show.

 

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