Time seemed to freeze once you crossed the threshold of The Black Hole, a unique military surplus store and recycler of ‘nuclear’ waste located in Los Alamos in Northern New Mexico, USA.
Nestled in the dramatic landscape of the Jemez Mountains, the small town of Los Alamos feels like the perfect encapsulation of Middle America. And yet, behind the manicured lawns and picket fences, hidden in the canyons and mesas of this ancient Indian tribal land are the operational buildings and testing sites of The Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Founded by the U.S. Government during the Second World War, Los Alamos was selected to be the site of the top-secret Manhattan Project because it is so remote. It was here that scientists were able to harness the power of the atom, developing and deploying the atomic weaponry used at Hiroshima & Nagasaki. Throughout the years the lab has continually updated its infrastructure and replaced obsolete equipment, holding regular surplus and salvage sales to dispose of unwanted stock. A great deal found its way into The Black Hole where visitors were presented with an astonishing array of scientific and electronic equipment, anonymous instruments, circuit boards, tools, hardware, furnishings and Cold War relics.
The Black Hole was the brainchild and obsession of Ed Grothus. Atomic Ed, as he later became known, had first arrived at this hidden outpost of science to work as a machinist for the lab in 1949. During what Ed considered to be an unjust Vietnam War he felt no longer able to support the development of nuclear weapons, left the lab becoming one of the most outspoken anti-nuclear protestors of the 20th Century.
Over the next four decades he collected a breadth of surplus material from the lab, turning a former grocery store into a Mecca of technological obsolescence. His reluctance to part with a lot of the items he stocked led to a friend rechristening the business The Black Hole: everything seems to go in but very little ever came out.
Ed Grothus passed away in 2009, propelling The Black Hole towards its event horizon (point of no return). Following his wishes, Ed’s family decided to close The Black Hole in late 2012 and this is when I started to photograph the remaining artefacts before they were lost. I created a body of work that reflected the last breath of this unique store whilst I began a journey through Ed Grothus´ archive, where I engaged with over 50 years of correspondence, documents, objects and photographs that have since shaped the project Atomic Ed.
Atomic Ed has already been designed and is ready to go to press. This Kickstarter campaign aims to raise funds to cover the production costs and shipping expenses.
The book will be published by RM who will help to distribute internationally the finished work. The vision is to produce a medium-sized book, 17 x 23,5 cm. Atomic Ed will have three main sections: archival materials, letters, and images from The Black Hole. They will be defined by different kinds of paper stock. The book will be printed and bound in Madrid, Spain. Key details:
Designed by N2 Estudio
Published by RM Books
Printed by: Brizzolis, Madrid.
83 photographs / 47 Original Letters
Texts in English.
I have been working on this project since I first visited The Black Hole in 2012. I am a documentary photographer and multimedia artist interested in questioning the histories and environments we belong to. I am based in Cardiff, UK but have been travelling extensively to New Mexico, USA over the years to research more into this project and also to develop Moving Forward, Looking Back, that has been exhibited in Washington DC, Albuquerque, NM and Los Angeles, CA.
For the last 6 years I have researched Ed Grothus' archives to find and select the materials that will form this publication. The images I took at The Black Hole have been exhibited in the UK (Ffotogallery, Wales) and Spain (Ayuntamiento de Logroño) and also have been featured at CNN, The Guardian, PBS and Photomonitor.
I had the support of colleagues Matt Wright, Javier Palao, Natalia Troitiño, Michal Iwanowski, Gareth Phillips, Celia Jackson and Charlie Pastor who have helped me throughout the journey with the archival process and the contextual essays. Ed Grothus' family has been key with their guidance and support too to navigate through this story.
In addition to the book, I have also designed a few special rewards. If you just want the book, the EARLY BIRD and BOOK are your best options.
If you would like to visit virtually Los Alamos in NM, The Black Hole and Ed Grothus´s office then you can get the Book + VR experience. This virtual journey merges panoramas with voice recordings and has been inspired by a Viewmaster I found in The Black Hole.
You can also choose between three fine art photographs and take home one of the limited edition prints, signed and numbered.
The Collectors Edition includes a book, a fine art print, VR experience and an original Pin made by Ed Grothus as a replica of the ones that the scientists in The Hill had in the 1940s.
You can also get a T-Shirt in 4 different colours. Many sizes are available so I will check with you before ordering.
WHAT WILL I DO WITH THE MONEY FROM THE CROWDFUNDING
I estimated a production of 500 copies of the book. My goal to reach is £12,500 to cover the production costs, design and the expenses of shipping and packaging. Kickstarter and payment processing fees will apply if the project is successfully funded (ca. 9% of total funds raised).
Risks and challenges
The book is designed and ready to go to press. As in many publishing projects, there is a risk of delay. However, this risk is met with the experience of book designer Natalia Troitiño and publishers RM. Our best efforts will secure that the book will be printed in September of 2018 and will reach you in time.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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