Countdown is a unique photography book experience that explores the offensive and defensive nuclear infrastructure in the United States during the Cold War. Through two balanced photo essays, photographers Jeanine Michna-Bales and Adam Reynolds offer a calculated look at the frighteningly contrary logic behind America's nuclear policy of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) and the implications of nuclear war.
Michna-Bales's series, "Fallout: A Look Back at the Height of the Cold War, circa 1960" (2013-2022), explores various Cold War-era fallout shelters throughout the United States, while Reynolds looks at now-dormant nuclear missile silos that have been converted into tourist sites in his photo essay "No Lone Zone" (2017-2022). These quiet architectural spaces, devoid of people, allow us to come face to face with present nuclear dangers while offering a look into the collective psyche of the American people during the Cold War.
Utilizing period documents such as Civil Defense materials, Michna-Bales's overlays allude to our attempts to quantify and rationalize a full-scale nuclear war and its aftermath. While Reynold's glitched images, employing faux nuclear coding, hint at the inherent dangers of a breakdown in the command and control system, both intentional and accidental.
This MAD balance is incorporated into the book's design through dual front covers, insert booklets, and collaborative imagery that conceptually links the two projects together in an ominous collision of hubris and wishful thinking.
The architectural spaces documented in Countdown remind us that while the Cold War itself has passed into history, the threat that nuclear weapons pose today has not.
Jeanine Michna-Bales Working in the medium of photography, 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 work lives at the intersection of curiosity and knowledge, documentary and fine art, past and present, anthropology and sociology, and environmentalism and activism. 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. Adam Reynolds Adam Reynolds is a documentary photographer whose work focuses on contemporary 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 Masters 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 Masters 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.