JL Pickering has been collecting spaceflight images for a "lifetime."
Longboat Key author JL Pickering has the “largest private collection of U.S. human spaceflight images,” according to his Amazon author bio, and he and co-author John Bisney have brought more of those images out into the world.
The pair published a whole book on just the Apollo 11 mission just in time this year for the mission’s 50th moon-landing anniversary on July 20.
The book, simply named "Picturing Apollo 11," is the space-aficionado-pair’s fourth title together.
It dives deep into the before and after of the mission, which itself has only one chapter. The rest brings to light fascinating images of the six months leading up to the mission, Pickering said. He wishes there could have been more about the get-togethers the crews had over the years, but they had to work with the space given to them by the publisher.
“We never got to a point where I said we needed more material,” Pickering said. “It was more of a thinning out. There is certainly no shortage.”
Bisney brings the words to Pickering’s collection of photos, and together the two are a perfect pair.
Bisney writes captions analyzing the photos and telling everyone who is in it — or trying to. They have a vast network of contacts in the space industry who can help them identify folks in the photos besides the main players. Many of the photos in the book have not been seen by the general public before.
“No one had ever really done one big group book of photos of one manned spaceflight,” said Bisney.
Where did the part-time Longboat Key resident get all those photos?
“The accumulation of images has really been a lifetime,” Pickering said. “I get a lot from the National Archives, but it’s not just something you walk in and say, ‘Show me your Apollo 11 stuff.’ You have to really dig.”
Pickering also gets photos from private photographers who worked at NASA's space centers in Florida, Texas and Alabama, folks who had access to events over the years, from other collectors, NASA public relations folks, Ebay — anywhere.
Bisney, a Tampa resident, and Pickering are old friends who both love space and are high-level collectors, Bisney said. Pickering’s focus on collecting photos, of course, while Bisney goes after mission patches — a popular pursuit in the world of space souvenirs —and other aerospace pieces.
“It became apparent very quickly that JL and I were simpatico,” said Bisney. “We became fast friends in the world of space collecting.”
“Picturing Apollo 11” can be found on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble. It’s on its second printing and gearing up for a third. The pair is currently turning their attention to the space shuttle and working on a book on that.