Jeanine Michna-Bales and Adam Reynolds: Countdown
For those of you who may remember the days when your elementary school teacher instructed you in the “Duck and Cover” air raid drill triggered by a lonely siren where you dove under your desk, covered your head with your arms and were instructed not to look out the windows of your classroom, the book, Countdown, should bring back some eerie memories. The book consists of two projects, “Fallout” by Jeanine Michna-Bales and “No Lone Zone” by Adam Reynolds, that focus on two opposing perspectives of the Cold War in the United States: the decidedly defensive posture of retreating to a fallout shelter in hopes one would survive a nuclear attack as depicted in “Fallout” and the coldly impersonal images of nuclear missiles, and the ghosts of crews that manned U.S. missile silos that are now nuclear tourist sites in South Dakota and Arizona as “No Lone Zone” illustrates. Both projects are coldly impersonal with nary a human figure in sight other than their remnants such as an empty whiskey bottle in a fallout shelter and a group photo of the last crew of a missile silo over a red Coke machine in a crew lounge.
Michna-Bales takes us on a visual tour of decrepit fallout shelters, some public and others private, with shelves still stocked with unopened cans of foodstuffs and “survival crackers” from the 1960’s. In striking similarity to the theme of Neville Shute’s 1957 apocalyptic novel, On the Beach, she also fans the flames of destruction with documents and posters from the era depicting one’s chances of surviving a nuclear blast based upon your distance from it. The images clearly depict the ironies and fallacies of an era that now would appear quaint if it were not for how close Cold War political brinkmanship brought us to near mutual destruction.
Adam Reynolds covers the destructive side of the Cold War in cold images of cold weapons that required teams of two “missileers” to oversee their readiness to launch a nuclear missile and hence, the project title of “No Lone Zone” since two crew members deterred potential sabotage. The image of two hanging rocket fuel handlers’ coverall suits provides a symbolic glimpse of the destructive power of the missiles they serviced. I was also intrigued by the concept of nuclear tourism that is alluded to in this segment of the book since most of these missile sites were de-commissioned after the fall of the Soviet Union and these two sites are now open to the public. Reynolds also uses glitch art techniques in various images in the book to provide an other-worldly affect to depict the surreal nature of the surreal world view created by the Cold War.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the fine design features of the book that give each project its own space and a clever textured double cover that one can flip to view the opposing project. There are also moments of collaboration between the two artists that utilize glitch techniques and mutual inputs effectively.
The book is published by Yoffy Press and be ordered at: Yoffypress.com
Jeanine Michna-Bales is a fine artist documenting our fundamentally important relationships — to the land, to other people and to oneself — and how they impact contemporary society. Her practice is based on in-depth research — taking into account different viewpoints, causes and effects, and political climates — and she often incorporates found primary source materials into her projects through quotes, ephemera and extended captions. Michna-Bales has released two monographs, “Through Darkness to Light: Photographs Along the Underground Railroad” (Princeton Architectural Press, 2017) and “Standing Together: Inez Milholland’s Final Campaign for Women’s Suffrage” (MW Editions, 2021). She was named a 2018 AIRIE Fellow (Artist in Residence in the Everglades). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, is held in many permanent collections including the Library of Congress, and has been featured in numerous media outlets such as BBC World News and the New York Times.
Follow Jeanine Michna-Bales @jmbalesphotography
Adam Reynolds is a documentary photographer whose work focuses on aspects of contemporary and historic political conflict. He pursues long form documentary projects that balance photographic creativity with a journalist’s fidelity to the subject. Reynolds’s background as a photojournalist continues to inform his present work with heavily researched and observed projects with images meant to inform. He holds a Master of Fine Art degree in photography from Indiana University. He began his career covering the Middle East in 2007 as a freelance photojournalist. Reynolds holds undergraduate degrees in journalism and political science from Indiana University with a focus in photojournalism and Middle Eastern politics. He also holds a master’s degree in Islamic and Middle East Studies from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His first photobook, “Architecture of an Existential Threat” (Edition Lammerhuber, 2017), explores contemporary Israeli bomb shelters.
Follow Adam Reynolds on Instagram: @aprenol13
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