From the 14th of March to the 15th of April the Atomic Photographers Guild exhibited their group show Behind the Atom Curtain: Life and Death in the Nuclear Age as part of the ‘Divergence: Photographs from Elsewhere’ exhibition at the massive Midland Atelier warehouse in Midland, Perth, as part of the biannual month-long photography festival FotoFreo. Around 500 people attended the opening night of all the exhibitions; which also included works by Martin Parr, Sohrab Hura, Bharat Sikka, Sam Harris, Chandan Ahuja (India), Nigel Bennet (Italy/UK), Ellen Bornkessel (Germany), Sara Jane Boyers (USA), Vita Buivid (Russia), Sundari Carmody (Australia), Neil Chowdhury (USA), Martin Cox (USA), Jagath Dheerasekara (Australia/Sri Lanka), Catarina Diedrich (Spain), Eva Fernandez (Australia), Andrew George (USA), Denis Glennon AO (Australia), Natalie Grono (Australia), Alan Hill & Kelly Hussey-Smith (Australia), Edwin Janes (Australia), Rhea Karam (USA/Lebanon), Munish Khanna (India), Andrej Kocis (Australia), David Manley (Australia), Prudence Murphy (Australia), Matthew Newton (Australia), Sarah Rhodes (Australia), Maurizio Salvati (Australia), Jan Schuenke (Germany), Flavia Schuster (Argentina)
Natasha Shulte (Ukraine), Marc Shoul (South Africa), Lia Steele (Australia), Michael Stone (Australia), Gemma-Rose Turnbull (Australia), Salih Urek (Turkey), Elizabeth Wintle (UK), Josh Wodak (Australia)
Art Wolfe (USA).
The public program on Saturday the 17th of March was a day long event dedicated to artists’ talks. The APG’s only Australian photographer, Jessie Boylan, spoke first up in the morning to over 30 people. The exhibition received great interest, with many people being unaware of the issues represented in the work beyond a superficial level.
A review of the whole of Divergence show can be found here.
The Atomic Photographers Guild are exhibiting Behind the Atom Curtain: Life and Death in the Nuclear Age, as part of Divergence, Photographs from Elsewhere; A monumental showcase of photography by over sixty photographers from fifteen countries at the historic Midland Railway Workshops site in Perth, Western Australia, from the 14th of March to the 15th of April, as part of the FotoFreo festival.
Founded by photographer Robert Del Tredici in 1987, the Atomic Photographers Guild is an international grass-roots collective of photographers dedicated to making visible all aspects of the nuclear age.
Behind the Atom Curtain: Life and Death in the Nuclear Age features the work of 24 members of the Atomic Photographers Guild, including Berlyn Brixner and Yoshito Matsushige, Guild elders — Brixner having photographed the first atomic explosion in the Alamogordo Desert; and Matsushige, the sole photographer in Hiroshima the day the A-bomb exploded overhead; Robert Del Tredici (the US Nuclear Weapons Complex, Canadian uranium), Kenji Higuchi (Japanese Nuclear Power), Carole Gallagher (Atomic Veterans & Utah & Nevada Downwinders), Harris Fogel (the Trinity Site), Gunter Zint (mass demonstrations against German nuclear installations), Yuri Kuidin (opposition to Soviet nuclear tests), Dan Budnik (uranium mining in the American Southwest), Patrick Nagatani (nuclear realities in the American Southwest ), James Lerager (Atomic Veterans, Chernobyl), Peter Goin (nuclear landscapes), Paul Shambroom (nuclear weapons post-Cold War), James Crnkovich (US nuclear pop culture), Blake Fitzpatrick (the Port Hope uranium refinery in Ontario), Nancy Floyd (nuclear power workers in California), John Hooton (missile silos in North Dakota), Igor Kostin, David McMillan, and Vaclav Vasku (Chernobyl), Barbara Norfleet (nuclear landscapes), Jessie Boylan (nuclear tests in Australia), and elin o’Hara slavick (Hiroshima).
This exhibit first opened at the Sol Mednick Gallery at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia last fall. Curated by Robert Del Tredici and Harris Fogel, it presented a variety of aesthetic, cultural, scientific, and conceptual responses to the challenge of the nuclear age. In November of 2011 the show opened in Vienna in the Sala Terena Gallery at the University of Applied Arts. This is its third venue, co-curated by Guild member Jessie Boylan of Melbourne, Australia.
Each photographer focuses on different facets of the nuclear age. From portraits of the founders of the nuclear era to contemporary nuclear scientists, from to the partial meltdown at Three Mile Island to the full meltdown at Chernobyl and the tattered social fabric around Fukushima, from survivors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and above-ground atomic tests to all the H-bomb factories of the US, Behind the Atom Curtain lifts the veil on nuclear landscapes and cultures throughout America, Europe, Russia, and Japan.
It addresses history’s deadliest nuclear accident, still unfolding, in Fukushima, by featuring the work of Kenji Higuchi of Tokyo. Higuchi has for forty years been the preeminent photographer of Japan’s nuclear workers. Guild members have in common the aim to capture the heft, grit and impact of the nuclear age — an age that has altered the course of history but exists so covertly that most people think of the Bomb as an abstraction. The Guild releases its images in books, on gallery walls, and over the web so others can piece together the fragments of what may well prove to be our darkest, most enduring legacy.
A Lecture by elin o’Hara slavick
Presented by the Photography Program in conjunction with the Atomic Photographers Guild exhibition
Behind the Atom Curtain: Life and Death in the Nuclear Age
Meet the artist following the lecture in the Mednick Gallery;
Room 1504, Terra Hall, 211 South Broad Street, Philadelphia,
Wednesday, October 5, 2011, 12:00 noon.
For more information: 215-717-6300/www.uarts.edu
Founded by photographer Robert Del Tredici in 1987, the Atomic Photographers Guild is an international collective of photographers dedicated to making visible all aspects of the nuclear world. This show highlights history’s gravest nuclear accident, still ongoing, in Fukushima, with special acknowledgment of the work of Kenji Higuchi of Tokyo. Higuchi is the preeminent photographer of Japan’s nuclear workers. The exhibition was curated by Robert Del Tredici and Harris Fogel.
Behind the Atom Curtain: Life and Death in the Nuclear Age features the work of 24 photographers including: Berlyn Brixner, Yoshito Matsushige, Jessie Boylan, Dan Budnik, James Crnkovich, Robert Del Tredici, Blake Fitzpatrick, Nancy Floyd, Harris Fogel, Carole Gallagher, Peter Goin, Kenji Higuchi, John Hooton, Igor Kostin, Yuri Kuidin, James Lerager, David McMillan, Patrick Ryoichi Nagatani, Barbara Norfleet, Mark Ruwedel, Paul Shambroom, elin o’Hara slavick, Vaclav Vasku, and Günther Zint.
Sep 23—Oct 22 2011
Sol Mednick Gallery
Philadelphia, PA 19107
The World’s Worst Meltdown
By photojournalist Kenji Higuchi of Tokyo
The greatest earthquake in Japan’s history (Richter 9.0) struck the northeast coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. A devastating tsunami followed. An early count of the dead and missing numbered 20,000, and the number is rising. Japan’s major power company –The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) – owns the 6 reactors damaged during the blackout that followed the quake and tsunami. Without electricity, the emergency core cooling systems for the reactors failed. Back-up generators and batteries kicked in, but they soon failed as well. The result is the world’s worst nuclear accident. And it is not over yet.
Everybody knows that earthquakes bring tsunamis. But TEPCO failed to fully integrate this knowledge into its systems. And after its cooling systems failed, TEPCO insisted that a hydrogen gas explosion would never happen. But on March 12 the world saw the huge explosion in Reactor 1; it saw another explosion in Reactor 3 the next day; two days after that it saw a third hydrogen gas explosion rock Reactor 2. And Reactor 4, with its fires and damaged spent fuel pool, is in a critical state. Yet even now, every day, we have to listen to people calling this catastrophe “beyond expectations” – academics do it, intellectuals do it, journalists and financiers do it. They do it because they get paid for promoting nuclear power. Whenever these pro-nuclear people appear in the media, I find them scarier than the earthquake and tsunami combined. This accident was not “beyond expectations” at all – it was an accident that was bound to happen once corporate greed became more important than human beings.
Sub-contractors always get brought in to do our nuclear dirty work. They like the jobs but are told little of the dangers. To stabilize the Fukushima reactors, every day more than 3,000 subcontract workers get sent into hot zones. I believe these workers will sicken and die within 10 years. Chernobyl is evidence of that. Japan’s Self-Defense Forces also get sent in. These young people do not really understand the dangers of nuclear power. When I hear that people are living within 30 km. of the reactors, I know they are trapped in a sea of radiation. I think that their lives will soon become tragic. Every day since the accident, TEPCO and the government have been telling lies. One result is a big food problem. The first sign came when cattle were fed hay contaminated by cesium, and the beef was sold to cities throughout Japan, so a lot of people ate it. Contaminated vegetables and fruits are also being sold and eaten. Sometimes the government recommends people not sell or eat produce from Fukushima. But there is no oversight or enforcement. And some of the radioactivity pouring out of the Fukushima reactors has been carried on the wind to Tokyo. Yet professor Keiichi Nakagawa of the Department of Radiology at Tokyo University Hospital has repeatedly said on TV that “it is impossible for people in Tokyo to be adversely affected by radiation from Fukushima. This radiation will have no impact on human bodies.” This academic calls himself an expert; but he receives funding from the nuclear industry, and he has never been to Fukushima.
We call people damaged by radiation “hibakusha” (“explosion-affected persons”). I have been documenting Japan’s nuclear industry hibakusha for 40 years.
Consider how many radiation victims this catastrophe will create. On March 14 we heard that 160 people near the damaged reactors had become hibakusha. Evacuations were first ordered for residents within a 5 km. radius of the plant; then it ordered people within a 10 km. radius to go, then within 20 km., then within 30 km. The evacuation zone should have begun at 30 km. — this is where evacuations began for people near Chernobyl. I believe that the total number of radiation casualties coming out of Fukushima will turn out to be more than we are able to imagine.
For 40 years the God of Nuclear has been soothing the minds and hearts of people with the mantra that it is Cheap, Clean, Safe, Abundant, and Peaceful. Finally the God of Nuclear is getting its come-uppance. It now finds itself on the brink of collapse. This is the time for Japan to go back to Square One to fashion a new energy policy. It is time to put an end to nuclear power and cross over into natural energy.
I have succeeded in getting to Fukushima only once so far, and I have so far once visited some of the shelters for people who fled the danger zone. In one shelter a guard tried to confiscate my film. He did not get it. I will document Fukushima more because there are important lessons to be learned here. Sooner or later history will make those lessons known. The sooner we figure out what those lessons are, the better. One lesson is already clear: nuclear reactors do not bring happiness — they bring nothing but tragedy.
Mahatma Ghandi had seven things he wanted to warn people against carved onto his tombstone. He called them “the Seven Social Sins.” I agree with nuclear engineer Koide Hiroaki from the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, who recommends that we call Ghandi’s seven social sins “The Seven Nuclear Sins”. They are:
Politics Without Power
Wealth Without Work
Pleasure Without Conscience
Knowledge Without Character
Commerce Without Morality
Science Without Humanity
Worship Without Sacrifice.
Listen to a June 2011 Radioactive Show podcast with Bob Del Tredici talk about his work and the beginnings of the Atomic Photographers Guild. The program was produced by Jessie Boylan, fellow APG member and radio producer based in Melbourne, Australia.
The Atomic Photographers Guild will be exhibiting
Behind the Atom Curtain: Life and Death in the Nuclear Age
From September 23 – October 21 at the Sol Mednick Gallery, University of the Arts, Philadelphia.
Curators: Robert Del Tredici and Harris Fogel.