Camera Atomica

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Camera Atomica


25 × 19 cm | 8 × 10 in
256 ills | 305 pages

Editor: John O'Brian
Contributors: Hiromitsu Toyosaki, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Blake Fitzpatrick, Susan Schuppli, Iain Boal, Gene Ray, Douglas Coupland

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A unique and engaging exploration of how the camera lens has shaped public perceptions of the atomic age and its legacy of anxiety. The images featured are extremely vivid and were taken by famed photographers, including Weegee, Barbara Kruger, Sandy Skoglund and Garry Winogrand, during some of the nuclear events from 1945 onwards.

Wherever there have been nuclear weapons and nuclear fission, there have also been cameras. Camera Atomica explores the intimate relationship between photography and nuclear events to uncover the crucial ways in which the camera lens has shaped public perceptions of the atomic age and its anxieties. 

Camera Atomica examines narratives beyond the 'technological sublime' that dominates much nuclear photography, suppressing representations of the human form in favour of representations of B-52 bombers and mushroom clouds. The book proposes that the body is the site where the social environment interacts with the so-called 'atomic road': uranium mining and processing, radiation research, nuclear reactor construction and operation, and weapons testing. Cameras have both recorded and—in certain instances—provided motivation for the production of nuclear events. Their histories and technological development are intimately intertwined. All photographs, including nuclear photographs, have the capability of functioning affectively by working on the emotions and fascinating audiences.

Through a wide range of visual documentation, Camera Atomica raises questions such as: what role has photography played in underwriting the public image of the bomb and nuclear energy? Has the circulation of photographic images heightened or lessened anxieties, or perhaps achieved both at the same time? How should the different visual protocols of photography be understood?

Co-published to coincide with a major exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2014.