A few words about the images in the galleries:

 

While most of the color images have been scanned from 35mm positive transparencies, some of them were scanned from analog prints.The depth of some colors and the blackness of the shadows varies between those two, with the deeper tones in some cases a little lighter in the images that were scanned from the transparencies. All of the black-and white images were scanned from analog prints.

 

For the transparencies, I used a Prime Film 7200 35mm slide scanner; it has performed well enough but has tended to give a color cast to some of the images, affecting different colors and densities within those photographs in different ways. I have worked -- and am yet working, it would be fair to say -- on better balancing the color in these various galleries' images. If you happen to end up 'seeing red'  or 'feeling a little green' as you scroll through the photos, for that I apologize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trinity to MAD

Mutual Assured Destruction, and other insanities

 

 

THE IDEA that became this gallery was born at a weekend Tokyo houseparty. It was just about the time the Berlin Wall came down: the Japanese economic 'bubble' had passed its peak and the nation was just beginning its long slide into recession. None of us knew that then; a good time to party it was. The room that evening was abuzz with the excited happy chatter of the partygoers; none among them were paying much attention to the screen in one corner showing music videos in quick succession. The sound volume was quite low; the effect was BGV -- BackGround Video. Images flashed by, one after another, occasionally catching the eye for a moment but then lapsing again into a predictable pop-rhythm monotony. My attention drifted back to the company -- especially a few of the lovelier distaff guests, of course -- and with the added distractions of the food, drink, and the energetic overall ambience, in a few moments I had forgotten that boring little screen in the corner. The wine was good and the conversation engaging. Abruptly, from the farthest edge of my vision, the screen's images grabbed my eyeballs. Prancing freaky-haired rockers had been replaced by old black-and-white footage of Cold War-era air raid drills, the kind we had weekly when I was in the lower grades of elementary school.  Bright-faced youngsters practiced 'duck and cover,' diving and then huddling beneath their schoolroom desks just as we did almost every Friday at 10:00 a.m. The video cut to an animated mascot, Bert the Turtle. He was  reminding the kids -- just as he had in films shown in my own classes so many years ago -- of exactly what to do in case the bombers of Stalin & Co. were to appear overhead with the mission of obliterating the U.S.A., which in my own case meant West Los Angeles becoming Fireball-by-the-Sea. I stood there slipping back through decades for a moment as my memory of these near-forgotten words and images kicked in. I thought: "What happened to all that? Where did that era go? What happened to all the 'stuff' from those years?"  I was silent and alone in the crowd. Everyone else was still merrily partying away. None of them gave the screen even a glance.  'Duck and cover' soon gave way to another round of rockers followed by a balding British balladeer. In seconds I was back into the flow of the party, but a germ had been planted. 

 

 

 

 

The monument to the world's first nuclear blast of July 16, 1945 at Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.  The Trinity test and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings marked the beginning of the Cold War, which lasted until  December 26, 1991.
The monument to the world's first nuclear blast of July 16, 1945 at Trinity Site, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The Trinity test and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings marked the beginning of the Cold War, which lasted until December 26, 1991.

 

 

 

 

I chewed on the thoughts the video had prompted. I gnawed. I chomped. I explored halls of dimmed memories that grew more complex as I began research in earnest. I drank in new information, some of which had originally been held secret during those arms-race years. I wrote out my ideas. I noted. I jotted. Sometimes I even mixed metaphors (horrors!), as what you read here so clearly illustrates.

 

The driving questions were these: what had happened to the technologies, the places, the relics of the Cold War and its nuclear standoff?  What physically remained of the enormous sums paid to keep the nation safe from the frightening Red threat? Eventually my ideas took form enough that I could engineer a chance to go take a look; I managed to interest the editors of the Japanese newsweekly Shukan Bunshun in a photographic exploration of some of the iconic places and objects from those years still remaining within the continental United States. The timing was good, in that the provisions of the first U.S.- Soviet Union/Russia Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) were in the midst of being implemented and so some ICBM launch facilities, B-52 bombers, etc., were in the process of being destroyed as stipulated in the treaty's conditions.  Those I thought would make good representative images.

 

I shot both black-and-white and color; a selection of the black-and-white images was used in the magazine piece. A few of them are included in the 'Black + White' gallery on this site. The color work has never been published.  I have used some of those color images in narrated shows, but most that you see here are being shown for the first time.  I am looking to put together a gallery show with selections from both the monochrome and the color work.

 

 

 

 

 

The Trinity test fused the sand beneath it into a green glassy man-made mineral called trinitite.  Most was bulldozed away; these are a few small fragments that remained.
The Trinity test fused the sand beneath it into a green glassy man-made mineral called trinitite. Most was bulldozed away; these are a few small fragments that remained.
Army personnel of the Manhattan Project wore this shoulder patch, picturing a question-mark-shaped lighting bolt splitting something obviously globular. An atom? The world?
Army personnel of the Manhattan Project wore this shoulder patch, picturing a question-mark-shaped lighting bolt splitting something obviously globular. An atom? The world?

 

 

 

 

After completing the work at a number of sites in the U.S., I kept shooting potential aspects of the theme when I was working on topics or at locations that might have some relevance.  I am still occasionally adding to the collection of images, and have included not only relics of he Cold War arms race and the age of MAD (the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, a strategic premise of certain mutual suicide as the outcome of a nuclear war), but also some of that era's physical elements that have survived into the new world environment that followed it.

 

I approached the Russian Embassy in Tokyo about shooting at similar sites in Russia, and was planning to do the same in other once-Soviet states. It became quite apparent, however, that while the Russian Embassy was very interested and verbally supportive, working in that country would require a fairly large stock of unofficial-but-critical 'keys to the new Russia.'  That translates as a large supply of fresh, crisp U.S. $100 bills (Боже мой!) to be dispensed with some elan to just-the-right-people in just-the-right-places. I was no stranger to that phenomenon, having worked in various kleptocratic African nations over the years.  I didn't really expect it quite so much in the nation whose moral philosophy had formerly castigated exploitative individuality as the curse of mankind.  Perhaps they were just in a discomfiting post-Marxist-Leninist phase, during which they were discovering the truth of the old saw that "under capitalism, we find that man exploits man; under communism, it was the reverse." At any rate, no publisher has yet shown much interest in following up on my overall concept if the condition of a black hole for C-notes is a part of the package.

 

 

 

 

The McDonald house near Trinity Site. In these isolated ranch buildings, the atomic age began: the world's first nuclear weapon -- nicknamed 'The Gadget' -- was assembled here.  In the Pacific, aircrews were already training for the weapons' first use.
The McDonald house near Trinity Site. In these isolated ranch buildings, the atomic age began: the world's first nuclear weapon -- nicknamed 'The Gadget' -- was assembled here. In the Pacific, aircrews were already training for the weapons' first use.
 While the White Sands range is still used, Trinity was its only nuclear test.  The range is closed to the public, opening two days a year for guided excursions to the historic site.  These photos were made with special permission and access.
While the White Sands range is still used, Trinity was its only nuclear test. The range is closed to the public, opening two days a year for guided excursions to the historic site. These photos were made with special permission and access.
During July, 1945 the tiny coral triangle of Marcus Island was one of several targets for navigation and practice bomb runs (each using a single conventional bomb) by the crews training to drop the first nuclear weapons on Japan a few weeks later.
During July, 1945 the tiny coral triangle of Marcus Island was one of several targets for navigation and practice bomb runs (each using a single conventional bomb) by the crews training to drop the first nuclear weapons on Japan a few weeks later.

 

 

 

As I worked making the images, and again as I worked adding them to this website, a line from Shelley's 'Ozymandias' kept echoing in my mind:

 

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings.

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."

 

What are those Ozymandian concrete, steel, and aluminum relics and ruins I saw?  Monuments to an ultimately uncontrollable piece of our species' evolutionary heritage? What did we build? What did they, do they, and will they say about us?  Are they even firmer proof that humankind's consistently salient technologies are always some species of weaponry?

 

 

 

 

As if to symbolize the bombing strike that opened the nuclear age, a single contrail marks the sky above the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (the 'Hiroshima Dome').
As if to symbolize the bombing strike that opened the nuclear age, a single contrail marks the sky above the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (the 'Hiroshima Dome').
A B-29 'posing' as a late-40s or early-50s 'Silverplate' nuclear bomber of Strategic Air Command. The US insignia are correct for those post-WWII years, but the circled 'R' is an earlier WW II-era marking intended to confuse Japanese intelligence.
A B-29 'posing' as a late-40s or early-50s 'Silverplate' nuclear bomber of Strategic Air Command. The US insignia are correct for those post-WWII years, but the circled 'R' is an earlier WW II-era marking intended to confuse Japanese intelligence.
Seen through spring wildflowers is a wooden house remaining from the 1955 Apple II 29-kiloton 'shot' (the term for a nuclear test detonation); it was one of the 14 'shots' in the Operation Teapot test series at the Nevada National Security Site (N2S2).
Seen through spring wildflowers is a wooden house remaining from the 1955 Apple II 29-kiloton 'shot' (the term for a nuclear test detonation); it was one of the 14 'shots' in the Operation Teapot test series at the Nevada National Security Site (N2S2).
The skeletal steel beams of a collapsed building remain where they fell beneath the desert sky. The ruin is a remnant of the 1957 Operation Plumbbob weapons-effects test series.
The skeletal steel beams of a collapsed building remain where they fell beneath the desert sky. The ruin is a remnant of the 1957 Operation Plumbbob weapons-effects test series.
A USAF B-47, with the insignia -- asking 'Who fears?" -- of the 301st Bomb Wing, based at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio during the peak Cold War years.  B-47s were flown by Strategic Air Command between 1959 and 1965.
A USAF B-47, with the insignia -- asking 'Who fears?" -- of the 301st Bomb Wing, based at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio during the peak Cold War years. B-47s were flown by Strategic Air Command between 1959 and 1965.
A full-sized model of a reinforced-concrete civilian bomb shelter design crushed by a nuclear explosion's shock wave. Weapons' effects on a variety of structures were tested extensively in the 1957 Operation Plumbbob series of 'shots.'
A full-sized model of a reinforced-concrete civilian bomb shelter design crushed by a nuclear explosion's shock wave. Weapons' effects on a variety of structures were tested extensively in the 1957 Operation Plumbbob series of 'shots.'
An M-65 280mm cannon, designed to fire 15-kiloton W9 nuclear shells.  M-65s were in service between 1953 and 1963, and were deployed in Korea and Germany.
An M-65 280mm cannon, designed to fire 15-kiloton W9 nuclear shells. M-65s were in service between 1953 and 1963, and were deployed in Korea and Germany.
The remains of a pen that held livestock as weapons-effects test subjects, N2S2.
The remains of a pen that held livestock as weapons-effects test subjects, N2S2.
Windows on destruction: the bombardier's position was within the plexiglass-paneled nose of the B-36.
Windows on destruction: the bombardier's position was within the plexiglass-paneled nose of the B-36.
A false-color infrared image of the Hiroshima Dome.  The color and contrast are intended to evoke the searing heat and blinding light of a nuclear detonation.
A false-color infrared image of the Hiroshima Dome. The color and contrast are intended to evoke the searing heat and blinding light of a nuclear detonation.
Inside an LGM-30F Minuteman II silo; Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
Inside an LGM-30F Minuteman II silo; Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota.
Stripped of its markings, a B-57 sits at a base in Florida. For much of the Cold War period, B-57s with Mk 7 nuclear bombs were tasked to make high-speed, low-level attacks on the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea from bases in Japan and South Korea.
Stripped of its markings, a B-57 sits at a base in Florida. For much of the Cold War period, B-57s with Mk 7 nuclear bombs were tasked to make high-speed, low-level attacks on the Soviet Union, China, and North Korea from bases in Japan and South Korea.
This brick house at N2S2 was about 3,000 meters from ground zero of the 1955 Apple II 'shot,' and so survived the weapon's blast effects.
This brick house at N2S2 was about 3,000 meters from ground zero of the 1955 Apple II 'shot,' and so survived the weapon's blast effects.
The crater from the 1964 Sedan 'shot' at N2S2; the bottom is still too radioactively 'hot' to approach without protective shielding.
The crater from the 1964 Sedan 'shot' at N2S2; the bottom is still too radioactively 'hot' to approach without protective shielding.
The remains of a guardpost and fencing of the secure area inside the former Air Force facility on Iwo Jima. Nuclear warheads were stored here in the 1960s in preparation for a possible nuclear 'second strike' against the Soviet Union.
The remains of a guardpost and fencing of the secure area inside the former Air Force facility on Iwo Jima. Nuclear warheads were stored here in the 1960s in preparation for a possible nuclear 'second strike' against the Soviet Union.
The nose of a derelict B-36 -- the largest bomber ever to fly -- shows the faded mailed-fist escutcheon of the Strategic Air Command. Never used in combat, these intercontinental bombers were a large part of SAC's front line from 1948 to 1959.
The nose of a derelict B-36 -- the largest bomber ever to fly -- shows the faded mailed-fist escutcheon of the Strategic Air Command. Never used in combat, these intercontinental bombers were a large part of SAC's front line from 1948 to 1959.
The remains of a destroyed Minuteman II missile silo. It would remain in this condition for 90 days, to allow for satellite verification. 150 Minuteman II and 450 Minuteman III silos were destroyed in this manner.
The remains of a destroyed Minuteman II missile silo. It would remain in this condition for 90 days, to allow for satellite verification. 150 Minuteman II and 450 Minuteman III silos were destroyed in this manner.
In compliance with the START I provisions, the fuselage of a B-52G lies in the desert landscape of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. It was severed by a huge, specially-built 'guillotine.'
In compliance with the START I provisions, the fuselage of a B-52G lies in the desert landscape of the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. It was severed by a huge, specially-built 'guillotine.'
The cockpit of B-52G 57-6505.  In the mid-1990s, 365 bombers were each cut into five sections and laid out for satellite verification of their destruction.  B-52s were SAC's deterrent mainstay from 1955; some will remain in service until 2045.
The cockpit of B-52G 57-6505. In the mid-1990s, 365 bombers were each cut into five sections and laid out for satellite verification of their destruction. B-52s were SAC's deterrent mainstay from 1955; some will remain in service until 2045.
In order to stop the imagined USSR bomber fleets, in the 50s the US produced the unguided AIR-2 Genie air-to-air missile, armed with a 1.5 kiloton nuclear warhead. Over 3000 were built and were in active service from 1957 through 1985.
In order to stop the imagined USSR bomber fleets, in the 50s the US produced the unguided AIR-2 Genie air-to-air missile, armed with a 1.5 kiloton nuclear warhead. Over 3000 were built and were in active service from 1957 through 1985.
Looking Glass was an operation that maintained flying command posts intended to function in place of surface command infrastructure destroyed in a nuclear attack. EC-135 Looking Glass aircraft were airborne 24 hours a day for over 29 years.
Looking Glass was an operation that maintained flying command posts intended to function in place of surface command infrastructure destroyed in a nuclear attack. EC-135 Looking Glass aircraft were airborne 24 hours a day for over 29 years.
Once in the vanguard, F-100s were the first supersonic aircraft to carry nuclear weapons. These war-weary examples were retired and converted for use as QF-100 drones and ended their service lives as air-to-air missile targets.
Once in the vanguard, F-100s were the first supersonic aircraft to carry nuclear weapons. These war-weary examples were retired and converted for use as QF-100 drones and ended their service lives as air-to-air missile targets.
THe entrance of a Minuteman II launch silo, opened for technicians' access during the early stages of its decommissioning process.  The Minuteman II carried a W56 warhead of 1.2 megaton yield.
THe entrance of a Minuteman II launch silo, opened for technicians' access during the early stages of its decommissioning process. The Minuteman II carried a W56 warhead of 1.2 megaton yield.
"World-Wide Delivery in 30 Minutes or Less -- or Your Next One is Free": dark humor on the door of an underground Launch Control Center.  The crew in this LCC controlled ten Minuteman II missile silos.
"World-Wide Delivery in 30 Minutes or Less -- or Your Next One is Free": dark humor on the door of an underground Launch Control Center. The crew in this LCC controlled ten Minuteman II missile silos.
The vestibule and 72-ton door leading to the 'capsule' of a Launch Control Center.   To the upper right of the door frame is a warning ('No Lone Zone') that LCC crewmembers were forbidden from moving around on their own inside the facility.
The vestibule and 72-ton door leading to the 'capsule' of a Launch Control Center. To the upper right of the door frame is a warning ('No Lone Zone') that LCC crewmembers were forbidden from moving around on their own inside the facility.
Looking into the underground LCC capsule, which is held in place by huge shock absorbers to cushion it even from a surface-detonation nuclear strike directly above.
Looking into the underground LCC capsule, which is held in place by huge shock absorbers to cushion it even from a surface-detonation nuclear strike directly above.
The stages of a Minuteman II launch are visible on the console.  Each column of indicators displays the series of those stages in the launch sequence of a single ICBM. Perhaps the most chilling is 'Missile Away.'
The stages of a Minuteman II launch are visible on the console. Each column of indicators displays the series of those stages in the launch sequence of a single ICBM. Perhaps the most chilling is 'Missile Away.'
One of two launch switches; the keys of both had to be inserted and turned simultaneously by the two LCC crew members to initiate the launch of the ten missiles under their control.
One of two launch switches; the keys of both had to be inserted and turned simultaneously by the two LCC crew members to initiate the launch of the ten missiles under their control.
A B 53 (originally designated the Mk 53) 9-megaton-yield free-fall thermonuclear bomb. About 340 were built in the 1960s, with 50 remaining in the 'Hedge Stockpile' of nuclear weapons until 2011. Its huge yield enabled it to obliterate 'hardened' targets.
A B 53 (originally designated the Mk 53) 9-megaton-yield free-fall thermonuclear bomb. About 340 were built in the 1960s, with 50 remaining in the 'Hedge Stockpile' of nuclear weapons until 2011. Its huge yield enabled it to obliterate 'hardened' targets.
Once super-secret Mach 3+ D-21 reconnaissance drones, built to be launched from SR-71s, are sealed in 'mothball' storage at AMARC. The D-21s were to spy on China's Lop Nor nuclear test site. Four missions were attempted; none succeeded.
Once super-secret Mach 3+ D-21 reconnaissance drones, built to be launched from SR-71s, are sealed in 'mothball' storage at AMARC. The D-21s were to spy on China's Lop Nor nuclear test site. Four missions were attempted; none succeeded.
This bridge section was curved and twisted by the shock wave of a nuclear blast, N2S2.
This bridge section was curved and twisted by the shock wave of a nuclear blast, N2S2.
A US government award for officials and technicians working in assignments implementing the conditions of the strategic (read: nuclear) arms limitation and reduction treaties.
A US government award for officials and technicians working in assignments implementing the conditions of the strategic (read: nuclear) arms limitation and reduction treaties.