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).
Members of Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC) protesting outside Trinity Site during open house on October 7, 2017.
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.
I’ve had a very interesting photographic career. Even though for two decades, I shot food for advertising and other commercial assignments, I was fortunate to simultaneously pursue photojournalism while serving in the U.S. military. After looking at my blog, one of my Army buddies asked me where were my PJ shots? Good question, since more than half of my 22 years of military service was as a photojournalist. Even though I’m posting an image today, I may very well devote an entire page on this site to some of my more memorable PJ shots.
This diptych comes from my last tour-of-duty in the República de Panamá. We were based at Santiago, in the Provincia de Veraguas, which is located in west-central Panama; roughly a 6 to 8 hour ride on an old school bus! My best friend, Koby, and I were sent to the north-western corner of the province, in the mountains up near Provincia de Bocas del Toro, to provide newspaper and TV coverage of humanitarian work by U.S. Army National Guard engineers. They were rebuilding a clinic in a small mountain village. Our only access to this hinter region was by air, so we hitched a ride with a flight of Vietnam-era Huey’s from the Illinois Army National Guard. After completing our mission, our flight decided to practice “nap-of-the-earth” flying along the Río de Jesús, which had a real pucker factor, but that’s another story for another time!