Nuclear Landscapes is a series that documents topographies across the United States associated with atomic energy. Nuclear chain reactions were hypothesised in 1933, and the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place in December 1942. The Trinity test and subsequent bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War II represented the first large-scale use of nuclear technology. They ushered in profound changes in sociopolitical thinking and the course of technology development.
At the time, atomic power was promoted as the epitome of progress and modernity, but with it came the threat of nuclear warfare and disasters.
The United States Atomic Energy Commission predicted that, by the turn of the 21st century, one thousand reactors would be producing electricity for homes and businesses across the U.S. The reality is far short of what was promised because nuclear technology produced a range of social problems, from the nuclear arms race to nuclear meltdowns, and the unresolved difficulties of bomb plant clean-up and civilian plant waste disposal and decommissioning.
Much of the development, testing, and disposal of nuclear material in the United States has taken place in the west. Abandoned uranium mining towns, decaying atomic test sites, old nuclear reactors, and decommissioned nuclear missile bases are strewn across the western landscape and stand as an eerie testament to a period of time that was meant to revolutionise civilisation.
Brett Leigh Dicks is an Australian/American photographer who shares his time between the United States and Australia. His photographic endeavors have led him to explore the world’s natural and urban landscapes with the resulting imagery spanning Australia, America, and Europe. Brett primarily investigates the landscape and the fragile ties that it shares with human history. Recent series have included decommissioned prisons, nuclear landscapes, and the disappearing downtowns of rural America. In addition to his own photographic pursuits, Brett has written extensively on the subject of photography along with curating exhibitions for public and private galleries and museums.
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