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Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Blog, Essays, Picture 1, Travel, Uncategorized, What's Left | 1 comment

The Greatest Photograph Ever Taken

 

 

[This is the follow up post to the article “WHAT’S THE GREATEST PHOTOGRAPH EVER TAKEN?” and subsequent discussion HERE which took place on Facebook.]

 

You’re looking at the greatest photograph ever taken.

It’s an astonishing image, spellbinding even, especially given the unforeseen interlude of the snapshot and the tumultuous times unraveling back on earth at the instant that it was taken.  The image is a blaze of contrasts, and for many — an inspiration and a call to action.

This photograph was snapped by William Anders in late 1968.  Anders was one of three astronauts aboard the Apollo 8 space mission.  Remarkably, Anders had no prior experience in photography, and yet his image has been called “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.”   Not bad for an amateur.  The photo was even something of an accident.  It wasn’t planned.

Later named “Earthrise,” we see the earth in the distance which appears as an oasis of vibrant colors floating in the dark abyss of outer space.  The foreground shows the moon’s surface up close for the very first time, directly beneath the Apollo 8 spacecraft.  Contrast this image with grainy black and white television images transmitted back to earth from the lunar capsule, and the differences are striking.  We take these images for granted now, but at the time they were taken and later splashed around the world in media, we were in awe.

This image was a first in so many ways.  Earthrise was the first photograph to show the earth in its entirety.  While some of earth is concealed by a shadow and we can’t see the other side of the planet, it’s still the first comprehensive photo of all of humanity and the place we call our home.  Still, let that sink in.  Before this instant, we never quite knew what the whole earth looked like.  Previous manned space missions had beamed back many stunning images, but they were taken much closer to the earth’s surface.  Until this mesmerizing moment, we’d never seen ourselves truly as one.  In a sense, it’s the first “group shot” of everyone on earth.

This is us.

The timing of the photo also adds significantly to its power over us.  From space, we see what seems to be a peaceful planet.  But the historical backdrop to this photo was the terrible year that was 1968.  The world was in chaos.  This was the height of the Vietnam War.  The two superpowers were locked in a death-stare of conflicting ideologies, both sides stanchioned by thousands of nuclear warheads.  At the time, the U.S. didn’t even recognize the largest nation on earth, the People’s Republic of China.  Apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa.  Famine and starvation raged across parts of Asia and Africa.  Tensions were brewing in the Middle East, which had just come off a war between Israel and the Arab States in the prior year.  Central and South America were in the midst of their so-called “dirty wars,” as many countries were ruled by brutal military dictatorships.  Revolutionaries were active almost everywhere and had even launched a new tactic particularly loathsome to humanity, called “terrorism.”

The United States was also in crisis.  National Guard units patrolled the streets of many American cities.  There were nightly curfews.  Every major university had mass protests against the Vietnam War.  Race relations exploded into riots and burned many American cities.  There was a generational split on every cultural and political issue — the old didn’t like or trust the young, and the feeling was mutual.  Yes, 1968 was a bad year — Dr. Martin Luther King was gunned down.  A few months later, Robert F. Kennedy was murdered.  Even one of the national political conventions erupted into near anarchy.

Yet, none of these man-made troubles are apparent in this stunningly beautiful groundbreaking image.  This was the portrait of a seemingly very different world that was taken when Anders lifted a Hasselblad camera loaded with 70 mm film and aimed it at the earth.  The audio recording of the conversation between the three astronauts inside the spacecraft reveals just how spontaneous this moment was:

William Anders:  Oh my God! Look at that picture over there!  There’s the Earth coming up.  Wow, is that pretty.

Frank Borman:  Hey, don’t take that, it’s not scheduled. (joking)

William Anders:  (laughs)  You got a color film, Jim?  Hand me that roll of color quick, would you…

Jim Lovell:  Oh man, that’s great!

Here’s another thought:  Given these historical firsts, the ironies of what the year 1968 was like, and the accidental occasion to take such an iconic photograph, also consider the actual date this image was taken.

December 24, 1968.  Christmas Eve.

Some 240,000 miles away, a billion people were about to celebrate the holiest of holidays.  Many of us would later sit down to dinner just hours later with our friends and loved ones (I was 6-years-old at the time).  While many of us enjoyed our Christmas feast, three remarkably brave men were so very far away, locked inside a tiny compartment the size of a Volkswagon, circling the moon.  The mission set the stage for the first moon landing, some seven months later.

Now, take another look at the photo.

I’m often asked why I believe the way I do.  I’m asked what makes me champion the virtues of science and reason, and why I value cooperation over conflict, and why I’m an advocate for human and animal rights, and why I’m an environmentalist, and why I don’t believe in imaginary gods, and why I don’t think national boundaries or borders are a good thing when it comes to being a fully compassionate human, and why I’m convinced we’re all much more interconnected than the wedges of disagreement which divides us.

There is no mine.  There is only ours.

Never has one photograph instilled within us such an important task — to save what we see.

 

Note 1:   The Earthrise photo had been preceded by a previous image taken in 1966 by a robotic space probe.  However, that image was in black-and-white and didn’t generate nearly the impact.

Note 2:  Read more about the marvel of Earthrise here, from the official NASA website.

 

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Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas, Personal, Picture 1, World Series of Poker | 5 comments

More Classic Poker Photos from My Private Collection

 

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(Photo:  At the 2002 World Series of Poker….with no grey hair yet) 

 

 

Here’s another sampling of my private collection of poker photography.

All of my snapshots were taken between the years 1997 and 2003.  They were locked inside a file cabinet for more than a decade.  Now I think is a good time to share these images with those of you who enjoy looking back on the game’s history.  With the 2014 world championship November Nine as well as the Poker Hall of Fame announcement and induction ceremony coming soon, let’s now take a look back on some of poker’s best.

Read my original display of classic photographs here:  POKER HALL OF FAME:  PAST AND PRESENT (A PHOTO ESSAY)

Accompanying each photo, I’ve added some personal thoughts as to what I remember about the photos and the people in them, when they were taken.

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Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Picture 1, World Series of Poker | 4 comments

Poker Hall of Fame — Past and Present (A Photo Essay)

 

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(Photo:  Announcing final table action at the 2002 World Series of Poker) 

 

It’s a privilege to be one of the 42 voting members for the Poker Hall of Fame.

This year’s class of ten nominees makes for one of the toughest ballots choices in history.  The decision of voters is difficult, since virtually all those selected by the general public and the nominating committee are worthy of serious consideration.  Looking at these names, I do believe that a majority of the nominees on this year’s list will eventually be inducted into poker’s most prestigious fraternity.  For most of the people on this list, it’s just a matter of time.

One of the perks of working in poker for so long is being acquainted with many of the top players in the game, including quite a few poker legends.  Over the years, I’ve managed to take a great many photographs.  This was before camera phones existed, when you had to buy rolls of film and ten carefully choose the best shots.  Most of these photos have never been published before, in part because I’m a lousy photographer.

That said, in the coming months ahead, I’ll post a collection of photos that I’ve snapped over the years, taken between 1993 and the present.  I’ve probably accumulated 500 or so interesting photos, which is a decent collection, but nothing on par with past WSOP photographers including Eric Harkins, Larry Grossman, or Ulvis Alberts.  They have thousands, if not tens of thousands of images.

Today, I’m including a mix of poker players connected in some way to the Poker Hall of Fame discussion, along with my memories of what was going on when the photo was taken.

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Posted by on Jun 6, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Personal, Picture 1, World Series of Poker | 6 comments

Seniors Day at the 2014 World Series of Poker

 

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Today is one of my favorite days on the World Series of Poker schedule.  The Seniors Championship is played today, which is open to any poker player aged 50 and up.

The Seniors Championship brings a lot of old faces together.  However, the emphasis here isn’t on “old.”  Frankly, I’m always surprised to see who’s turned 50.  I suppose no matter what our age is, we all hope to be able to play in this tournament at some point.  It sure beats the alternative.

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