The first week of October I drove to southern New Mexico to research and photograph tourists’ activities related to the birth of the atomic era. Specifically, twice a year in April and October, White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) opens the Trinity Site to the public for a one-day visit. Trinity Site is ground zero for the Manhattan Project’s first atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945. Less than a month later atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. Trinity Site is located near the Jornada del Muerto desert (Journey of the Dead Man) and in the Tularosa Basin, just northwest of Alamogordo.
Having lived part of my childhood in the mountains east of Alamogordo, I felt it important to visit WSRM to try to better understand where my father worked during the late 1950s. After visiting the WSRM Museum and Missile Park, I did gain some insights into his life and work. For example, I did not realize WSRM was originally established near the end of WWII, in part, for reverse engineering the Nazi V-2 rocket with Germany’s top rocket scientist, Dr. Wehner von Braun. My father’s work overlapped with von Bruan’s for the next decade as my father worked on the Mercury and Gemini manned space programs.
Needless to say, it was an interesting and tiring 5-day road trip, which included three out of four nights camping (two nights were in Mesa Verda National Park).
TBDC Protestors outside Trinity/MSMR Gate. Tina Cordova (center with black hat) is co-founder of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium.
Professor Kavanagh conducting video interviews for her documentary project “Atomic Tourist: Trinity” at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, October 7, 2017.
Members of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) protesting outside Trinity Site during open house on October 7, 2017.
So this past Friday three die-hard photographers ventured out for a freezing night of photographing light orb phenomena at the Poague Wildlife Conservation Area, near Clinton, MO. Although the temps dropped to 33oF (0.5oC), we had nearly a full moon to conduct our research into live performance art as captured with still-digital imaging technology. Wilson brought along several new light emitting devices, such as LED multi-colored light wands that changed colors and pulsated like strobes. Robert gave a great performance spinning burning steel wool, although during my performance the lanyard broke, sending a fiery trail off into the pond’s shoreline. Fortunately there were no uncontrolled fires!
Of course being this far removed from civilization, we were paid a visit by some local-yokels in their rattrap, exhaust leaking van, while they were spotlighting deer and other game in the woods. I think they were rather surprised to find a bunch of “old” guys in their haunt with tripod-mounted cameras and other paraphernalia. As they whispered to us (I suppose as to not frighten their illegal quarry) about our doings in their neck-of-the-woods, we simply replied that stars where our photographic subject. Once satisfied, they left and we resumed our light painting performance!
Despite the cold evening, the howling coyotes, and the curious kinfolk, we managed to stay warm throughout the performance and some of us enjoyed some ice-cold Guinness stout and Blue Moon winter spiced ale!
Today I created a test shot for a new photographic series I’ve been wanting to produce. The photographs will address technology from an ideological perspective. Specifically, Neil Postman’s Technopoly plays a significant role in this framework. As one of the 20th century’s more interesting cultural and media critics, Postman warned against technology’s ability to eclipse humankind through what he called the “tyranny of machines”.
This series of images depicting various forms of technology will be paired as diptychs contrasting analog and digital technologies from across various scientific disciplines. As such, I hope to investigate social and institutional ideological stances and influences that creep into our sense of personal self-identity without our awareness. In other words, we assume this aspect of life to be normal.
The image below is my first test-shot in the series and it depicts a 50-year old Paragon Engineer’s Transit, manufactured by the Keuffel & Esser Company. K&E, as it was known, was founded in 1867 in New York and last produced this particular model of transits in 1969.