This was the first photograph I ever bought, a print from the original NASA negative. I looked at it every day for years.
The astronauts on the moon had to contend with quarantine, not just for them, but for their stuff. Nothing could touch the surface, or be exposed to raw atmosphere without extensive decontamination.
Charles Duke brought a photo of his family with him and like everything else they carried, it needed to be isolated from the environment with plastic. It’s hard to say exactly what motivated him to photograph it lying on the surface of the moon, but it’s not that hard to say. If you looked up and saw the earth 250,000 miles away, when you looked back down, you’d want to see something close.
Among the other remarkable aspects of this photo, it made me realize that all the other NASA photos of the moon’s surface were actually color photographs. It was the moon that was monochrome, not their film.
I always try to picture Duke looking down and seeing his family there, covered in plastic, and wondering whether it made them feel closer, or further away. Of all the photos in the world that address the fragility and vulnerability of human life, this is my favorite. It’s in contrast to the hubris, genius, and accomplishment of considering that vulnerability while dressed in a spacesuit and stomping around on the motherfucking moon.