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 Adam Reynolds and Jeanine Michna-Bales 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.
Reynolds’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. Meanwhile, 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.
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.
Photographs by Jeanine Michna-Bales and Adam Reynolds
Essay by Fred Kaplan
Design by Commercial Artisan
Released in 2022, the book is available for order at Yoffy Press.