Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jürgen Nefzger- Fluffy Clouds

 Photo:  Jürgen Nefzger

Fluffy Clouds by Jürgen Nefzger is my third "photography" book (not incl a couple on Chernobyl) that surveys our nuclear landscape. One was American Ground Zero by Carole Gallagher, the other Nuclear Landscapes by Peter Goin. Both of the latter are serious inquiries into the history and consequences of America's atomic and thermonuclear weapons program(s) on the land, and its people.

Unlike them, Fluffy Clouds concentrates on... landscape photography, and how the nuclear power plants, cooling towers and steam ("fluffy clouds") they emit are incorporated into the European landscape.* Some are barely visible in the background (out of sight, out of mind), others dominate the picture area, still others are "hidden" in plain sight. And the photographs are indeed beautiful- serene, large format, idyllic. One plant (decommissioned) is directly on the grounds of a children's amusement park, the cooling tower festively painted and apparently open to visitors. The scariest ones however are those active and located directly beside towns, homes, farms. They seem as ubiquitous and "natural" as the trees, shopping malls and rivers that surround them.

But despite the prevailing scenic beauty, Mr. Nefzger does not leave us without a visual word to the wise. The very first photograph is a beachfront vista with a rather ominous warning sign: Radioactive particles are being found on the beaches at sandside. It imparts a distinct feeling of unease throughout the book; a very subtle, yet very direct reminder that what you can't see can kill you.
*Note: This was written before the Japanese catastrophe.

Photo:  Jürgen Nefzger

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