Technology

Atomic Road Trip

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).

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Technology and Its Ideological Implications

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.

© 2011 Terry Ownby