Carole Gallagher, Conifer, Colorado, first began her odyssey on the nuclear trail on March 28, 1979, the day of the Three Mile Island accident. Noting beads of sweat on the brow of Walter Cronkite as he reported on it, she packed her car, ready to travel far from the potential plume that could soon have enveloped her home town, New York City.
Shortly after that, she began research on the effects of atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada, which had been an interest since childhood “duck and cover” maneuvers at her grammar school in the 1950s. Wondering what really happened to people downwind of the Nevada Test Site, she began research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York with a library pass supplied by a doctor who taught there. Recently declassified documents from the Atomic Energy Commission revealed that federal authorities considered those people “a low-use segment of the population,” much the same as test site workers and atomic veterans exposed at close range to nuclear bombs as they detonated in the open air. Abandoning her life as a successful photographer and writer, she moved from downtown Manhattan to southern Utah, a spot considered most damaged by fallout, to observe and document what she called “American Ground Zero.”
After a dozen years on the road, based in Utah, “American Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War” was published by The MIT Press. A slightly abridged paperback edition was published by Random House the next year, thanks to Harold Evans, “as a personal act of conscience.” There was a companion traveling exhibition of this documentary organized by the International Center of Photography in New York with seven venues nationally and numerous others abroad.
Gallagher has been working on book projects concerning the environmental destructiveness of war in the Persian Gulf (1991), another on nuclear testing in the West, and monographs on similar issues connecting health with environmental pollution.
Praise for Carole Gallagher’sAmerican Ground Zero: The Secret Nuclear War
“As you look at Carole Gallagher’s powerful pictures and read her angry words, you may be reminded of James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, with Walker Evans’ photographs of poor tenant farmers in the rural South. . . . Ms. Gallagher’s book deserves to be read as a crusading story of the consequences of the nuclear-arms industry’s linger-ing contamination and deception: as an American Chernobyl.”
- The New York Times, Herbert Mitgang
“They are ordinary people to whom something extraordinary has happened, and Carole Gallagher reveals their pain, anger and confusion with the relentless clarity of art.”
- The Washington Post Book World, T.H. Watkins
“Gallagher’s discipline in becoming ‘a blank slate upon which the stories and images could be written’ has resulted in a document of immense authority and human urgency.”
- The Los Angeles Times Book Review
“An extraordinary study of one of the Cold War’s bleaker chapters . . . Gallagher has provided us with a powerful document that not only tugs at the heart but is a chilling reminder about the dangers of silence and complacency.”
- The San Francisco Examiner/Chronicle
“Shocking yet non-sensationalist . . . The book illustrates the irony that the U.S. mili-tary’s experimentation with bombs many times the magnitude of Hiroshima resulted in the nuking of one country – our own. A+”