I had a quick look at some photos from Michael Light’s exhibit called “100 SUNS” which presents 100 horrifying and beautiful photos of nuclear testing by the United States in the desert and the Pacific.
The enormous impact of these nuclear weapons can scarcely be imagined, even from these pristine photos of mushroom clouds blooming over a blue sea or barren desert. The online images apparently can not compare to the much larger images in the book form of the exhibition. I’ll be sure and check it out at my local bookstore as soon as possible.
I feel somewhat nostalgic looking at these images. They are part of my kid fears of some thermonuclear firefight engulfing the planet, of wandering orphaned in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Now our fears are more nuanced — crumbling towers, sleeper cells, dirty bombs. No less terrifying, but in some ways more immediate than being consumed by radioactive flames and fallout.
Michael Light’s commentary on the photos I found quite moving:
It is difficult to comprehend the mechanics and effects of just one such distillation of brilliant human savagery, much less the some hundred thousand nuclear weapons that have been fabricated by nations since the Trinity test. Any conscious person instinctively turns away. That is why these photographic images from the era of atmospheric nuclear detonation remain utterly relevant, beyond the historic interest of the extreme cultural moment they capture. Photographs only tell us about the surface of things, about how things look. When it’s all we have, however, it’s enough to help understanding. It happened. It is happening. It exists. May no further nuclear detonation photographs be made, ever.
100 Suns can be purchased from Amazon.com.