Monday, November 14, 2011

Capturing cave art

A little googling revealed that the photographer who captured the 1st circulated images of the prehistoric art in Lascaux is still kicking - but not like he was in 1947 (2rd image) while framing the horses and steers (1st image) on the walls and ceilings of the French cave. American photojournalist Ralph Morse is now in his mid-90s and has retired to South Florida. At the time, Morse had been working for Life magazine for 5 years. He had covered World War II (Guadalcanal, the invasion of Normandy, the war trials at Nuremburg) and went on to photograph events as diverse as the space program, the World Series, heart transplants, and the funeral of Albert Einstein (see his work here and here), winning numerous awards. Morse recently reminisced about - and shared some unpublished photographs from that initial shoot in Lascaux (slideshow here). "The first sight of those paintings was simply unbelievable. I was amazed at how the colors held up after thousands and thousands of years - like they were just painted the day before! Most people don't realize how huge some of the paintings are. There are pictures of animals there that are ten, fifteen feet long, and more," remembers Morse. It was a difficult assignment, both because it was hard to get the necessary equipment after the war and because it was not easily accessible. "It was a challenging project -- getting the generator, running wires down into the cave, lowering all the camera equipment down on ropes. But once the lights were turned on ... wow!" And the paintings were not just striking, they were highly accurate.

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