Sunday, September 26, 2021


Harold Eugene Edgerton, Atomic Bomb Explosion Before 1952

 Harold Eugene Edgerton

American, 1903-1990

Atomic Bomb Explosion before 1952

About 1952, printed later

Gelatin silver print; edition 23 of 25

This uncanny, amorphous ball represents the initial detonation of a nuclear test blast, arrested for one millionth of a second. In the 1940s Harold Edgerton devised the rapatronic camera (short for rapid action electronic), and the United States Atomic Energy Commission contracted his lab to use it to capture the various stages of atomic explosions. The rapatronic camera employs two polarizing filters and a Faraday cell-a coil that acts as a magnet when it comes in contact with an electric current. The cell, activated by a pulse emitted by the bomb just before it explodes, momentarily changes the polarization of the filters to let light pass through and reach the film inside the camera.

Gift of the Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1996.568

Label text from the exhibition - Art Institute of Chicago: The Human Landscape

J Robert Oppenheimer - We Are Death

I'm reminded of the concern of the Manhattan Project scientists that they might literally undo the fabric of the universe with the first test blast on July 16, 1945. Oppenheimer was quoting the Bhagavad-Gita about becoming Death at the time of that first explosion. It would have been a curious moment, had it happened. The end of the world, from an experiment gone awry. All life unraveled with no warning, other than the eons of genocide reaching their endpoint. Instead, we have more of the same. A new weapon used in all the old ways. Or the threat of its use, our mutual assured destruction. A new technology that has changed things and yet not. Neither the greatest fears nor the greatest promises.

Background on the Atomic Bomb Explosion - Code Named Harry

HARRY, Operation UPSHOT-KNOTHOLE. 4:05am May 19 1953, Nevada Test Site, tower detonation at 300', yield 32 kilotons. Photographed by an automatic ultra high-speed camera, Harry's fireball is frozen approximately 0.0001 seconds after detonation, before the blast has engulfed the tower. The surface mottling and irregularity is a result of high-velocity bomb debris "splashing" against the backside of the slightly slower expanding fireball, which glows due to compression heating of the surrounding air. Harry tested a device designed by nuclear miniaturization expert Ted Taylor that resulted in the most efficient low-yield fission detonation ever. "Dirty Harry" was also a radiological disaster, creating the worst fallout contamination of any of the U.S. continental atmospheric nuclear tests. 1000 troops observed the fireball, which lasted an unusually long 17 seconds; the radioactive debris cloud rose to a height of 38,000' and then moved directly over St. George, Utah, 100 miles to the east. Deadly fallout inundated the entire town of 5000 nocent and unsuspecting residents, most of whom would later develop cancer. The Hollywood film The Conqueror, starring John Wayne and Susan Hayward, was shot the following summer in a canyon near St. George; 30 years later, 91 members of the cast of 220 had developed various cancers, and Wayne and Hayward would both die of it. Of the estimated cumulative total of 85,000 person-roentgens of external gamma ray exposure created by all continental tests from 1951 to 1958, Harry is thought to have contributed 30,000 alone. Fallout from three other tests in the Operation Upshot-Knothole series would prove especially deadly as well: Nancy, detonated on March 24, would kill 4390 sheep near Cedar City, Utah; Dixie, detonated on April 6, would cover Boston with radiation, and Simon (see #019), detonated April 25, would douse Albany, New York with unsafe levels of radioactive rain. Shortly after the Operation's conclusion a Utah Congressman demanded that all testing on the continental United States stop; public concerns about the dangers of fallout began to coalesce as a national issue. The Atomic Energy Commission publicly maintained until its dissolution in 1974 that no damage was done from either Harry or Nancy; internal documents declassified thereafter showed this to be a patent lie. Image from an Edgerton, Germeshausen, & Grier Rapatronic camera by U.S. Air Force 1352nd Photographic Group, Lookout Mountain Station.

text from Michael Light - 100 Suns

Notes on Edgerton Atomic Bomb Explosion Photograph

The exposure was made 7 miles from the atomic explosion using a 10-foot lens.

There is a 4x5 copy negative at the Harvard Art Museum

In addition to the Art Institute of Chicago, several other museums have copies of this print (MIT MuseumSmithsonian American Art MuseumDetroit Institute of ArtsPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American ArtNelson-Atkins Museum of ArtMinneapolis Institute of ArtNational Gallery of Canada). They are gifts of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation.

This page includes a diagram of the rapatronic shutter

See also this informational document at the Nevada National Security Site

And this about the "end" of nuclear testing at the United Nations International Day Against Nuclear Tests

Cataclysm - Definition and Etymology

a large-scale and violent event in the natural world.

a sudden violent upheaval, especially in a political or social context.

early 17th century (originally denoting the biblical Flood described in Genesis): from French cataclysme, via Latin from Greek kataklusmos ‘deluge’, from kata- ‘down’ + kluzein ‘to wash’.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Folie à Deux

Cover Photo: H G Berger

When lovers play together, it is most beautifully a madness that's shared, an intoxication, a loss of boundary. Are we one? Are we two? Something new?

Hans George Berger and Herve Guibert shared such a madness.

We had built up a story, not yet completely revealed, of true moments and absurd stories, of pretentious falsifications and complicity, of sincere affection and reciprocal attraction. ... 

Hervé too had a Rollei 35; we often swapped cameras and film (always 400 ASA). He made as many photographs of me than I did of him. Only few of these photographs have been published so far. We lived together and mixed our images, we even had a certain pleasure imagining that one day gallerists, publishers and heirs would be in trouble to find out who was the author of a particular image. ... 

We believed that art was friendship, complicity, a shared vision of the world, against a background of a common conviction that questioned the truth of the substance of what you transmit and what you understand when you first look at something. We realised that we should not trust in easy answers; that behind the facade there are always secret rooms to explore.

Bianca Laura Petretto: What remains from art? Interview with Hans Georg Berger in Town of Waters. The photographical work of Hans Georg Berger. Edited by F P Campione and A M Montaldo, Aisthesis, Milan, 2001 

Book Photo

Cover Photo: Hans Georg Berger, Arnaud, Herve, and Huges collecting herbs, Casino Taddei Castelli, Elba 1982."

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Queer Typography

Paul Soulellis, What Is Queer Typography?

Queer Design Chats: What Is Queer Typography?

Looking for queer anything often feels lonely. 

1993 Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick ... "Intellectuals and artists of color whose sexual self-definition includes 'queer' ... are using the leverage of 'queer' to do a new kind of justice to the fractal intricacies of language, skin, migration and state."

I'm looking for a the messy mix of criss-crossing connections and intersections ... wandering and searching ... opening space for community and conversation ... an inquiry and an invitation ... a need to connect with kin ...

... the stories of struggle and oppression and liberation that can be found wherever power is doing its thing. Heteropatriarchy, capitalism, white supremacy, and settler colonialism - this is the matrix of domination, as named by Patricia Hill Collins in Black Feminist Thought (1990).

Jack Halberstam, borrowing from his book The Queer Art of Failure (2011) ... "the failures we might build upon in order to counter the logics of success ... failure is the map of political paths not taken ... failure's byways are the spaces in between the superhighways of capital"

borrowing Saidiya Hartman's work on waywardness ...  those in-between spaces ... maybe not legible at all ...

Dennis Grauel ... some of the ways that the type design industry participates in these logics of success ... shifting value from a production-based paradigm to a maintenance one, using care as the framework for type design and distribution... 

At the core of typography, as it's been taught and practiced for centuries, is control, precision, preservation of standards, the idea of perfect legibility, and the myth of the lone type designer as genius author.

Robin Mientjes ... "an attitude in the face of conformity, an attitude in the sea of passivity, an attitude to say yes when others say no. And that's poetic and abstract, but that's fine for our thesis today."

Dan Rhatigan ... research into gay publishing ... that began circulating in the 1960s and 70s ... for the first time ever we see typographic decision-making happening specifically in relation to a gay male audience ...

... focus on gay and lesbian liberation ... language like that rather than more inclusive terms ... to acknowledge context and how language operates in such limited ways ... and the fact that this language sometimes reflects the limits and inequities of the movements themselves.

These radical publications were all very different from each other but there is a kind of approach and some fairly consistent design and typographic methods that are in direct contrast to the slickness and corporate control of mainstream graphic design ... 

... activists and other fringe communities and movements could only publish because of access to cheap printing ...

Looking back from more than 50 years in the future ... I really hesitate to identify these designs themselves as queer. This is not a queer aesthetic ... 

In this very broad sense, queerness can be located in the radical, outsider status of these publications and their designs. This is queerness as an underground alternative way of creating networks of care. Queerness is the scrappy, ad hoc, and sometimes homemade designs that were directly related to the urgency of protest and activism and survival. 

Queerness has a close relationship to secret languages... hanky codes... Polari... 

In a recent conversation with Nat Pyper, an alphabet artist, ... and nichole killian ... "there is no queer history, only a history of queer acts, and I wonder how that might be mapped onto typography, like: there's no queer typography only a history of queer ___" ... and after a few seconds it was so obvious to us - queer reading and queer writing. 

There is no queer typography, only queer acts of reading and writing.

[from Paul Soulellis, What is Queer Typography?]

Queer Alphabets

Nat Pyper: A Queer Year of Love Letters

Robert Ford

Martin Wong

G.B. Jones

Women's Car Repair Collective

Ernestine Eckstein 


Be Oakley: Protest Sign Fonts 

Mother Nature Is A Lesbian

I Am Your Worst Fear I Am Your Best Fantasy & First Gay Americans

ACT UP Protest

Black Trans Lives Matter

Say Their Name

Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries (STAR)

An Action For Trans Youth

Tre Seals: Vocal Type








The Neue Black


Du Bois


Dennis Grauel


Type With Pride



Future Fonts


People Referenced

Paul Soulellis

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Patricia Hill Collins 

Jack Halberstam

Saidiya Hartman

Dennis Grauel

Robin Mientjes

Dan Rhatigan

Buddy (Buddie) Esquire 

Nat Pyper

nichole killian


A Few Queer Archives 

Gerber Hart


Paul Soulellis, What Is Queer Typography