THE HALF-LIFE OF HISTORY
In Hiroshima, Japan a twisted steel dome stands as a grim reminder of a city destroyed by the first atomic bomb used in warfare. It is a history no one dares to forget. Halfway around the globe in the Utah/Nevada border stands another ruin, the airplane hangar inside of which the bomber that carried the Hiroshima bomb was readied for its mission. Wendover Airbase, once the world’s largest, now crumbles from neglect. Its remains are witness to a history no one dares to remember.
The Half-Life of History addresses a place, largely forgotten, that carries a powerful legacy in human stories and the artifacts of abandonment. Like ground zero in Hiroshima, the Wendover airbase sits on haunted ground. The dilapidated buildings and debris still tell a story of dedicated men who trained for a top-secret mission they knew nothing about. Wendover and its airmen were key links in a chain of events that dutifully brought the technology of the bomb to its applied conclusion as one of the most profound events of the twentieth century. The stories and relics at Wendover describe more than the past, they also point to a historic cycle; to a present filled with new apprehensions that carry the potential for a chilling future.
The project was undertaken by photographer Mark Klett and writer William L Fox and was not intended to argue whether or not the atomic bomb should have been used to end the war. That is now historical fact. Rather, the work was the result of dismay and bafflement over a willingness to forget a traumatic past and the discontinuity between past, present, and future.
MARK KLETT photographs the intersection of cultures, landscapes and time. He worked as a geologist before turning to photography. Klett has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Buhl Foundation, and the Japan/US Friendship Commission. His work has been exhibited and published both nationally and internationally for over 30 years, and his work is held in over 80 museum collections worldwide. He is the author of fourteen books including Saguaros (Radius Books, 2007), After the Ruins (University of California Press 2006), Yosemite in Time (Trinity University Press, 2005), and Third Views, Second Sights (Museum of New Mexico Press 2004). Mark Klett is Regents’ Professor of Art at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.