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Open Access Photographed by the Earth: War and media in light of nuclear events

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This article charts a media historical relation between radiation and celluloid film, ranging from the downwind 1956 production of The Conqueror to early scientific imaging practices, war photography, war documentaries, military industrial film, and contemporary artists working on radiation aesthetics. Posing the collection as a diagnostic media ecology, this article argues that the valuable evidence provided by the environmental metadata stored in celluloid film is the product of ecological warfare and violence. By turning to the material sciences for a better understanding of how nuclear weapons affect media on large spatial and temporal scales we gain a parallax view to how photographic practices – defined as the aesthetic exchange of light and energy – occur autonomously within our ecology, although some of these forces are mobilised in deadly and imperceptible ways. By demonstrating that non-human agencies released by Cold War energy policies have contaminated military industrial and commercial film archives alike, this article asserts that nuclear testing and warfare have contributed to a global condition of test-subjectivity that can be evidenced by diagnostic media ecology.
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Keywords: environmental media; material politics; media ecology; nuclear testing; toxicity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Thomas Patrick Pringle is a PhD candidate in the Department of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University, where he studies as a SSHRC Doctoral and Brown Presidential Fellow. His research interests include environmental media, infrastructure, documentary film, and ecological theory.

Publication date: September 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • NECSUS is an international, double-blind peer reviewed journal of media studies connected to NECS (European Network for Cinema and Media Studies) and published by Amsterdam University Press. The journal is multidisciplinary and strives to bring together the best work in the field of media studies across the humanities and social sciences. We aim to publish research that matters and that improves the understanding of media and culture inside and outside the academic community. Each volume includes feature articles, a special thematic section, a video essay section, and a reviews section that covers books, festivals, and exhibitions. NECSUS is targeted to a broad readership of researchers, lecturers, and students, and will be offered as a biannual open access, online journal.

    The journal is published in Open Access, with the following Creative Commons copyright license: Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

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