NGS Picture ID:622552


Two of my photos left our solar system today and are now in interstellar space aboard Voyager. Two shots out of the 100 chosen to represent life on Earth. The only “message in a bottle” from our planet. I shot this picture of a father and his daughter in Malaysia while on assignment for NatGeo in 1976 and with my whole family in tow. The shot has been flying high for 35 years. Destination unknown!

ahhhh, Kodachrome!!!


NGS Picture ID:621257

Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, Va. Beach Va….my mother sort of “made me” go see what was up at this wildlife refuge…Not my thing really, but when your mother makes a suggestion and leans a bit , well you just do it!!  Walked right in to this. This was also a double spread in NatGeo for an article on Virginia where I lived at the time. Thanks Mom. That picture went a whole lot further than we thought….

55 thoughts on “Message in a Bottle”

  1. surreal,…. i wont forget the day i read this in a mag somewhere many years ago…
    i didnt know david back then, but i still remember that “awe” feeling… “i wanna be like him” i whispered to myself back then…and of course never happened (smiling)!!!

    theres only one david it seems and thats fair!

    Bravo from EARTH ! hope the Aliens would send a thank you gift/landing in OBX soon..
    cant wait to see those pictures.

    to be continued….
    (im staying tuned)

  2. i must say when somebody at NASA chose these two shots i did not think much about it at the time…..and of course i wished they had chosen two others!! but they chose not for “art” but just to show various aspects of the planet earth….anyway, the best thing about these two is that my family was standing w me when i made the first shot and my mother told me where to go and sort of “made me” take the second shot…funny

  3. Here’s hoping JJ Abrams incorporates those pictures in future Star Trek reboot of the original motion picture. V’Ger returns to annihilate planet earth, but we are saved when a swashbuckling photographer’s image archive is uploaded into the probe’s databank, forcing it to reevaluate humanity’s worth. Cut to a scene of DAH and Capt. Kirk in a bar with sexy green women.

  4. In all seriousness, that’s wonderful, both the fact the photos were placed on the spacecraft and the story behind them. Sincere congratulations.

    Now back to my normal, half-joking self… maybe someday NASA will send a rocket ship to the sun. That would be an ideal place to put all the instagram photos. It could serve as a goodwill gesture towards any Solarians the craft might encounter. I’m sure they’d especially appreciate the faux lens flare filters. Though I suppose it could just as likely result in the fiery destruction of our planet if, being a more rounded species, they didn’t appreciate the 1:1 aspect ratio.

  5. “AH: You were recently nominated into Magnum Photos, an organization known for their traditional ways of shooting film. How will this affect your use of the mobile phone in your work? Was this considered in the acceptance process?
    MCB: The portfolio submitted included only phone pictures from Libya and Congo…”

    … ONLY iphone pictures…

  6. “What interests me about the photographic process is the relationship between distance and honesty. As one moves closer to their limits, they often become more honest. ”
    Michael was raised in the Skagit Valley, a farming community in Washington State. Often using a camera phone as a primary recording device, his current work explores resource conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Sakhalin (2008), he captured the remote Russian island, while Broadway (2009) focused on New Yorkers amidst the financial crisis. He also put together a series of works from road and train trips throughout China (2010) and, as a contributing photographer at National Geographic Magazine, photographed several adventure stories for the publication. In 2011, Brown spent six months documenting the Libyan revolution using a camera phone, exploring ethical distance and the iconography of warfare. His upcoming book, Libyan Sugar, profiles that experience. Part of this work was shown at MIT, Instituto Cervantes (New York), The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Annenberg Space for Photography and will be at the Brooklyn Museum of Art during the fall of 2013. The subject of the 2012 HBO documentary, Witness: Libya, Brown was a finalist for the Oskar Barnack Award (2012), twice a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith Grant (2011/2012) and thrice a finalist for Burn Magazine’s (Magnum Foundation) Emerging Photographer Award (2009-2011).

    …and thrice a finalist for Burn Magazine’s (Magnum Foundation) Emerging Photographer Award (2009-2011).

    GO BURN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. a civilian-mass audience

    “BURNIANS…The sky is not the limit…”

    Here we are again…2013…I have to disagree though “Destination unknown!”
    The “message in the bottle” is going to OUR people UPSTAIRS !!!

    I am in tears,simply THANK YOU…

  8. eduardo sepulveda

    Some may argue who is really the one that came from another planet, but i guess this is undisputed, beyond solar system!

    Does anybody have this foolish tickle when thinking about voyager, interstellar space, or just looking at the open sky over the top of a pyramid ruin in mexico? …and course these pics.

  9. Congratulations, David! You have received countless honors in your long career as a photographer, but this one truly is out of this world. These images show not only the beauty and wonder of earth and its people but the creative flame that BURNs in the heart of its artists.

  10. DAH

    How very cool, especially the involvement of your family and especially your Mom. Congratulations!

    Love it!

    I can hear Spock describing the found images….”Captain, there appears to be some type of image media contained in the vessel. As best as I can determine from my scanning, it appears to be some sort of ancient celluloid/chemical based process for rendering and storing images from captured light. The images appear to show humanoid life forms with an appreciation of the natural beauty of their ecosystem. “…

  11. I am so disappointed. After I left the Loft, I washed my hands – my right hand, even – the very hand that shook your hand. I never should have done that.

    Congratulations, David. I don’t know if there is any heaven or hell, but maybe one day several billion light years into the future, Voyager will reach God, God will look at your photos and say, “I’ll be damned!”

  12. I read about those photos flying deep in space years ago. Whenever anyone is in doubt about David’s importance to the history of photography I always mention that spaceship flying far away. It always settles all arguments favourably.

  13. John Gladdy…

    Well I suppose it could be a photo of collage of images.
    Going back to those darkroom notes, I suppose I sort of could do a little bit of that stuff, obviously not to the extent of Pablo. But I just never enjoyed it enough to persist. But I know very, very well what look I want achieve with a print. I will always choose taking photos over printing.

  14. a civilian-mass audience

    BURNIANS will be next to YOU !!!

    and something to report from Greece…finally some light…”Democracy” must come back…
    time to Fall into place
    we have to find “our purpose” again…LOVE,PEACE and PHOTOGRAPHY!

    Be United,help each other…good energy and high spirit may be our compass in life…
    I am a believer and I believe in ALL OF YOU…!!!

    I love you BURNIANSSSSSS…

  15. a civilian-mass audience

    and yes POMARA…BBQ is on you…I am bringing only olives ( 5 chickens down)…

    Keep shooting…when Greece will be out of the turmoil …I am buying ALL the PhotoBOOKS…
    I am gonna make it…cause I am the BURNING Civilian !!!

    oh, a big thank you To MR.HARVEY,BURN CREW,DONORS,SILENT READERS…and YOU, our everyday BURNIANS…
    hmmm…I am missing so many reports of YOU…you are lucky ,I am busy “fighting”…as you know though…

    I WILL BE BACK …you have been warned…

  16. kickstarters, Assstrteters , F@ckstarters and to all those Bullshitters … enough with our egos and personal projects … HELP THE ARTIST…i dont even care how..
    find a way if u have enough balls


    Thank you, dear sister, for your never-ending support and encouragement. How I love and respect you!


    I am going to ignore your derogatory comment about Kickstarters and hope that when the time comes it will be there to help you raise the funds you need to publish, print and distribute your book. Trust me, I will contribute as much as I am able to help you reach your goal.


    Bravo and congratulations on the second printing of your magnificent book! I treasure my copy.


    I am loving following so many of you on Instagram. I am TOTALLY hooked on it after only one short month. It’s got my creative juices flowing again big time. Every morning I wake up saying, “So what pics will I take today?”

    And I offer loving thanks to all of you who are backing my Kickstarter campaign, both financially and emotionally. It feels so good to have you at my side.


  18. Paul, that is interesting news… Now I’m not sure how I feel about their approach on this… The description sounds a bit like they’re out to domesticate the “fan” and corral them into proverbial farm and call it a community. This newfound “community” then becomes a factory farm of continuous cash flow… It seems to take a stab at redefining what fair use is and even goes so far as to exclude those who are financially ruined, or damn near, from enjoying and learning about the work that has made the co-op so famous. I completely understand the financial landscape has changed in recent years and income is way down. But, I can’t help but wonder what the deceased members would think of this new model.

    Will they be giving higher paying benefactors gifts? Will this be run like Nat Geo runs their society? Where now and then members get special offers and discounts on prints? Or if you pay a in a certain bracket, such as $10k you might get your choice of an archival silver gelatin print from the collection? and/or a workshop taught in Cambodia? Or in another bracket, say like $500, you might get an artist book? … I just wonder.

  19. Very surprised last night to see Jacob Aue Sobol’s picture of a women giving birth had been censored by Facebook. What the hell is wrong with some people? It’s just beyond me…

  20. For those interested in the state of U.S. journalism/photojournalism: Indiana University, home of one of the more renowned schools of journalism that is always listed among the top ten, is being yanked from its building and merged into a new media school that includes public relations and screen writing.

    According to IU’s president, “There’s no point in saving a school that trains people to manage fleets of horses if the motorcar has taken over horse-drawn transportation.”

    Certainly a sad, though appropriate development as most journalism these days has as much or more to do with public relations or screenwriting as it does with objectively informing the public about what’s happening in the world.

  21. a civilian-mass audience

    OUR PATRICIA,sending love from Greece…it’s time to celebrate your vision !!!

    “sweet light”…remember, your words…THANK YOU !!!

  22. Congratulations, Patricia! Have a great trip to Antwerp! What a fast turn-around your book is now on! I look forward sitting down on my sofa with it on a cold morning in the pleasant heat of the wood stove.

    Civi, if someone is not right this moment posting something to pop in ahead of me, it looks like I will be #50.

  23. Jim Powers…

    Nice one image…
    Apart from a job is a photography a necessity/compulsion? Or could you live quite happily without photography?
    I find it to be a intense necessity. In fact I realize it helps me suffocate certain demons and unhappiness in my life which I’ve found time and time again will haunt me forever.

  24. Definitely a necessity/compulsion. I’ve been obsessed with photography since I was 10 years old…that’s 53 years! Never been able to limit it just to work. Perhaps because I’ve always had photography as an outlet, I’ve never had demons to battle. While the compulsion to photography could be seen as a demon, I’ve never considered it one that I had to battle. I simply surrendered to it.

  25. a civilian-mass audience

    wow,I can’t believe it…I was ready to call out JIM first BUT he got me…wow!!!

    Thank you JIM for your report.I like the “fuzzy” image !!!

    P.S FROSTY,you got the 50,it was about time…right AKAKIE ? !!!

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