Michael Light 100 Suns

ISBN 13: 9781400041138

100 Suns

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Between July 1945 and November 1962 the United States is known to have conducted 216 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests. After the Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1963, nuclear testing went underground. It became literally invisible—but more frequent: the United States conducted a further 723 underground tests, the last in 1992. 100 Suns documents the era of visible nuclear testing, the atmospheric era, with one hundred photographs drawn by Michael Light from the archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. National Archives in Maryland. It includes previously classified material from the clandestine Lookout Mountain Air Force Station based in Hollywood, whose film directors, cameramen and still photographers were sworn to secrecy.

The title, 100 Suns, refers to the response by J.Robert Oppenheimer to the world’s first nuclear explosion in New Mexico when he quoted a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, the classic Vedic text: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One . . . I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” This was Oppenheimer’s attempt to describe the otherwise indescribable. 100 Suns likewise confronts the indescribable by presenting without embellishment the stark evidence of the tests at the moment of detonation. Since the tests were conducted either in Nevada or the Pacific the book is simply divided between the desert and the ocean. Each photograph is presented with the name of the test, its explosive yield in kilotons or megatons, the date and the location. The enormity of the events recorded is contrasted with the understated neutrality of bare data. Interspersed within the sequence of explosions are pictures of the awestruck witnesses.

The evidence of these photographs is terrifying in its implication while at same time profoundly disconcerting as a spectacle. The visual grandeur of such imagery is balanced by the chilling facts provided at the end of the book in the detailed captions, a chronology of the development of nuclear weaponry and an extensive bibliography. A dramatic sequel to Michael Light’s Full Moon, 100 Suns forms an unprecedented historical document.

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About the Author:

Michael Light is a San Francisco-based photographer and bookmaker focused on the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it.  His work is concerned both with the politics of that relationship and the seductionMichael Light is a San Francisco-based photographer and bookmaker focused on the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it.  His work is concerned both with the politics of that relationship and the seductions of landscape representation.  He has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, and his work has been collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Research Library, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among others.

For the last fifteen years, Light has aerially photographed over settled and unsettled areas of American space, pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime.  A private pilot, he is currently working on an extended aerial photographic survey of the inter-mountain Western states, and in 2007 won a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in Photography to pursue this project.  Radius Books published the first of a planned multi-volume series of this work, Bingham Mine/Garfield Stack, in Fall 2009. The second, LA Day/LA Night, was released in Spring 2011.

Light is also known for reworking familiar historical photographic and cultural icons with a landscape-driven perspective by sifting through public archives.  His first such project, FULL MOON (1999), used lunar geological survey imagery made by the Apollo astronauts to show the moon both as a sublime desert and an embattled point of first human contact.  His most recent archival project, 100 SUNS (2003), focused on the politics and landscape meanings of military photographs of  U.S. atmospheric nuclear detonations from 1945 to 1962.

From Scientific American:

Text-free, portrait-large photographs--many in dramatic full color, mainly crimson and black by land, clouded skies by sea--are the hundred metaphorical suns promised. Rather more than half of them disclose the proverbial mushroom cloud, luminous or vapor-borne. Each one is a prompt, distant shot of an American nuclear weapon explosion, made during the years from 1945 to 1962, until the Limited Test Ban Treaty quelled both public witness and most fallout through burial underground. The meticulous compiler--photographer Michael Light, whose book Full Moon drew wide praise--ordered his portraits here for visual effect. A contextual look discloses much of weapon development amid the politics of unbridled state power. Since 1945, with the first test and the two calamitous attacks on Japanese cities, the explosive energy ranged from Little Feller I, a test of a midget atomic rocket suited for one-man launch, up to H-bomb Mike, shown in five striking views from 1952. Mike, the first large American thermonuclear device, raised the ante as measured in tons of TNT, from a 10-ton truckload to a fanciful TNT-laden boxcar train 2,000 miles long, rattling past at full speed during two nights and one day. Numbers do not convey everything. The image that most compels a viewer is one from 1946 itself, the first postwar year. The U.S. Navy felt the need for a demonstration of the new atomic threat against warships (no H-bombs as yet). The Bikini Atoll test was duly prepared in the summer of 1946. One fast daylight snapshot from the air shows something near human scale. Against the huge foamy tower of seawater thrown upward, a few tiny black splinters are dwarfed. The furious waters reached and ruined them. Are they kayaks? They were in fact among the largest battleships ever sent to sea, Japan's naval pride, anchored empty as targets. H-bomb tests are observed from 50 miles off; their images here are mostly colorful and complex layers of cloud formations out to the horizon. A few plates show witnesses, some of them troops set closer to the fireball than we would so casually plan today. The documentation is admirable. And Michael Light has put his own views briefly but clearly at the end of the book, recognizing that photographs tell only how things look: "When it's all we have, however, it's enough to help understanding. It exists. It happened. It is happening. May no further nuclear detonation photographs be made, ever."

Philip Morrison, emeritus professor of physics at M.I.T., wrote the book review column for this magazine for more than 30 years. He was a member of the Manhattan Project and a witness of the first test.

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Book Description Knopf Publishing Group, United States, 2003. Hardback. Condition: New. American.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Between July 1945 and November 1962 the United States is known to have conducted 216 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests. After the Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1963, nuclear testing went underground. It became literally invisible--but more frequent: the United States conducted a further 723 underground tests, the last in 1992. 100 Suns documents the era of visible nuclear testing, the atmospheric era, with one hundred photographs drawn by Michael Light from the archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. National Archives in Maryland. It includes previously classified material from the clandestine Lookout Mountain Air Force Station based in Hollywood, whose film directors, cameramen and still photographers were sworn to secrecy. The title, 100 Suns, refers to the response by J.Robert Oppenheimer to the world s first nuclear explosion in New Mexico when he quoted a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, the classic Vedic text: If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One . . . I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. This was Oppenheimer s attempt to describe the otherwise indescribable. 100 Suns likewise confronts the indescribable by presenting without embellishment the stark evidence of the tests at the moment of detonation. Since the tests were conducted either in Nevada or the Pacific the book is simply divided between the desert and the ocean. Each photograph is presented with the name of the test, its explosive yield in kilotons or megatons, the date and the location. The enormity of the events recorded is contrasted with the understated neutrality of bare data. Interspersed within the sequence of explosions are pictures of the awestruck witnesses. The evidence of these photographs is terrifying in its implication while at same time profoundly disconcerting as a spectacle. The visual grandeur of such imagery is balanced by the chilling facts provided at the end of the book in the detailed captions, a chronology of the development of nuclear weaponry and an extensive bibliography. A dramatic sequel to Michael Light s Full Moon, 100 Suns forms an unprecedented historical document. Seller Inventory # AAS9781400041138

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Book Description Knopf Publishing Group, United States, 2003. Hardback. Condition: New. American.. Language: English . Brand New Book. Between July 1945 and November 1962 the United States is known to have conducted 216 atmospheric and underwater nuclear tests. After the Limited Test Ban Treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union in 1963, nuclear testing went underground. It became literally invisible--but more frequent: the United States conducted a further 723 underground tests, the last in 1992. 100 Suns documents the era of visible nuclear testing, the atmospheric era, with one hundred photographs drawn by Michael Light from the archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the U.S. National Archives in Maryland. It includes previously classified material from the clandestine Lookout Mountain Air Force Station based in Hollywood, whose film directors, cameramen and still photographers were sworn to secrecy. The title, 100 Suns, refers to the response by J.Robert Oppenheimer to the world s first nuclear explosion in New Mexico when he quoted a passage from the Bhagavad Gita, the classic Vedic text: If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst forth at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One . . . I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds. This was Oppenheimer s attempt to describe the otherwise indescribable. 100 Suns likewise confronts the indescribable by presenting without embellishment the stark evidence of the tests at the moment of detonation. Since the tests were conducted either in Nevada or the Pacific the book is simply divided between the desert and the ocean. Each photograph is presented with the name of the test, its explosive yield in kilotons or megatons, the date and the location. The enormity of the events recorded is contrasted with the understated neutrality of bare data. Interspersed within the sequence of explosions are pictures of the awestruck witnesses. The evidence of these photographs is terrifying in its implication while at same time profoundly disconcerting as a spectacle. The visual grandeur of such imagery is balanced by the chilling facts provided at the end of the book in the detailed captions, a chronology of the development of nuclear weaponry and an extensive bibliography. A dramatic sequel to Michael Light s Full Moon, 100 Suns forms an unprecedented historical document. Seller Inventory # AAS9781400041138

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