Imagining A Glow Of A Post-Nuclear Strike

Standard
Trinity Test Fireball - 16 ms after detonation (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Trinity Test Fireball – 16ms after the first ever detonation of a nuclear weapon. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

16 July 1945. Alamogordo, New Mexico. 5:29:45 a.m. – ‘The Gadget’ is detonated and the world is forever changed. The ‘atomic era’ has begun. On 6 and 9 August 1945 the United States government drop two atomic bombs above the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The horror and devastation of these two atrocities soon become known around the world. 29 August 1949 – the Soviet Union conducts their first detonation of a nuclear weapon. The Cold War is on.

In the U.S., the possible reality of nuclear annihilation struck the minds of the people. At home, at work, at school, in entertainment, etc., the society was deluged with public service announcements and emergency preparedness  geared towards surviving an atomic attack. Fortunately, that feared assault has not yet occurred – although it is still a possibility despite the fact that it is no longer quite so salient on the minds of the populace.

But what if it did occur? What would the remnants of the time look like to those future generations whose ancestors might have survived the destruction? There is an artist photographer whose work seems to capture that haunting effect. His name is Troy Paiva. He uses the moniker of ‘Lost America’ as the umbrella term for his projects.

Paiva has been drawn to urban exploration since being in his teens and he has used that interest to become the master of night photography. Utilizing natural moonlight, as well as synthetic lighting of varying kinds, he doesn’t just take photographs of his subjects – in a lot of ways, he paints them. Paiva’s works involving the abandoned west are the primary focus of this post.

Below are a few of Paiva’s photos depicting various remains of abandoned mid-twentieth-century cultural artifacts. Some of these were once considered the gems of the time – to collectors they still are. The eerie luminescence that colors these works evoke a kind of radiant glow often mentally associated with things atomic. In many ways they depict a society now long gone, and even though the decay has been brought about by abandonment, one’s imagination could be led to the thought of a more sinister destruction.

Underground Castle: Castle AFB was a Cold War era Strategic Air Command installation in central California.

Underground Castle: Castle AFB was a Cold War era Strategic Air Command installation in central California. This is a semi-blastproof, partially underground, barracks-bunker where B52 and KC135 crews lived on 2 week shifts. On a scramble they’d run out of these tunnels to their waiting aircraft. The crews could have their aircraft in the air in 15 minutes, 24-7.

Aluminum Drizzle: How hot does it have to get for an airliner to melt?

Aluminum Drizzle: How hot does it have to get for an airliner to melt? Aviation Warehouse, El Mirage, California.

Rusty Boomerangs: This Jetsons-era Googie gas station rots beside Interstate 80, just east of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Rusty Boomerangs: This Jetsons-era Googie gas station rots beside Interstate 80, just east of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

A Chemical Hotspot: Inside the assayers office at Atolia tungsten mine, abandoned since the '60s. Judging by the ventilated booths on the left, a dirty chemical process was done in this room.

A Chemical Hotspot: Inside the assayers office at Atolia tungsten mine, abandoned since the ’60s. Judging by the ventilated booths on the left, a dirty chemical process was done in this room.

Kitchen Witchin Hour: About 1 AM in the unlucky kitchen of a destroyed abandoned house. A mile down a lonely dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, in the Mojave.

Kitchen Witchin Hour: About 1 AM in the unlucky kitchen of a destroyed abandoned house. A mile down a lonely dirt road, in the middle of nowhere, in the Mojave.

Greyhound Scenicruiser...at the Williams Bus Yard. The unrestored inside of the bus was as hot as a sauna, and smelled like an overflowing toilet.

Greyhound Scenicruiserat the Williams Bus Yard. The unrestored inside of the bus was as hot as a sauna, and smelled like an overflowing toilet.

Kelvinator: Late-'50s Nash Metropolitan, at The Big M in Williams, California.

Kelvinator: Late-’50s Nash Metropolitan, at The Big M in Williams, California.

The Fear: Skaggs Island Naval Base. Over 100 buildings, abandoned, near Sonoma, CA.

The Fear: Skaggs Island Naval Base. Over 100 buildings, abandoned, near Sonoma, CA.

Hope Has Left: Never to return.  Inside the Palms Motel at Salton Sea Beach. Abandoned and ravaged by vandals. Taken shortly after dusk on a sultry, hot night.

Hope Has Left: Never to return.
Inside the Palms Motel at Salton Sea Beach. Abandoned and ravaged by vandals. Taken shortly after dusk on a sultry, hot night.

If you’re interested in seeing more of Troy Paiva’s works, you can visit his Lost America Flickr page here, or the Lost America website that features a bio, information on night photography workshops and techniques, links for purchasing books and prints, and access to Paiva’s blog, here.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “Imagining A Glow Of A Post-Nuclear Strike

  1. Eerily retrospective imagery; relics of a time when humankind insanely teeter-tottered on the brink of self-destruction. Having been born in 1954, I vaguely yet distinctly recall a faint sense of foreboding that loomed beyond (because within) my childhood. However, little did I know (nor did anyone know) that such a thing as 9/11 would imperil the future. Thanks for posting.

    Like

    • Yes indeed, the ‘atomic era’ did seem a bit nutty. It seems odd – so much unspeakable fear yet so much hope for the future at the same time. I think the entire Cold War era held the world hostage in a despicable sort of way. The creepy thing is, the same dangers still exist today but it’s not talked about.

      As horrid as 9/11 and the aftermath has been, it hasn’t proven to be the same kind of total destruction a nuclear confrontation would be. The damage of 9/11 seems more social/political rather than physical. The fear is different and the worst threats to our freedoms now come from our own governments. But at least with that kind of result there is still a hope that things can be reversed. That’s not quite so with a nuclear threat.

      Sorry for the rant. :}

      Like

      • Your reply was not a “rant” at all but made perfect sense. We agree that today’s worst threats are our own governments–the same governments now telling us that a global network of murderous nomads are solely responsible for the horribly intriguing 9/11.

        An entity (within, or on the fringes, of government) capable of such horrible intrigue (defying rhyme and reason along with gravity) could just as well trigger a nuclear war. Do we really know what Al-Qaeda, etc, is and/or who it involves?

        Call me a “conspiracy theorist” (that expediently dirty word) but when 2+2 fails to equal 4 in my calculations then I lean towards dissent. When I was a kid wars, hot or cold, made sense insofar as sense could be made of war; if anything, they fell short of utter nonsense. And that’s my rant.

        Like

      • I think that we’re on the same page, Michael. And, I think we grow in numbers as time goes on. It’s such a horrid and unimaginable thought that many are too frightened to accept any of the now known facts about that tragic event. Being a political scientist, this point from PNAC’s Rebuilding America’s Defenses came to mind – and made me suspicious – from the moment I saw the second strike on television:

        According to the PNAC report, The American peace has proven itself peaceful, stable, and durable. Yet no moment in international politics can be frozen in time: even a global Pax Americana will not preserve itself. To preserve this American peace through the 21st century, the PNAC report concludes that the global order must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence. The report struck a prescient note when it observed that the process of transformation is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event–like a new Pearl Harbor. (source)

        Your point about the entity is well taken. Thanks for your rant *grinz*.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s