The 1945 decision by President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) to drop atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended World War II and began the Atomic Age. Despite the forming of the United Nations Charter (1945), world peace proved elusive. Initial postwar exhilaration rapidly gave way to apprehension and tension as the Soviet Union exploded its ﬁrst atomic weapon in 1949. Americans realized that “the bomb” could now be used against them. As test blasts escalated, the arms race of the Cold War commenced. The physical and psychological fallout from these scientiﬁc events altered the American transcendental belief in nature. The incredible economic beneﬁts scientists promised from the “Atoms for Peace” program, such as plutonium nuclear reactors that would generate not bomb material but electric power so inexpensive that meters would be unnecessary, never materialized. Instead, technology seemed on the verge of overwhelming nature, bringing with it a loss of ﬁrm moral ground and the possibility of outright extermination. Even Robert Oppenheimer, the head of the Manhattan Project that developed America’s ﬁrst atomic weapon at the Los Alamos laboratory, had so many doubts about what they had unleashed upon the world that he resigned his position.1 The threat
of atomic annihilation changed the world as the symbolic Doomsday Clock2 ticked off the minutes left before the midnight apocalypse, and post-World War II artists started to reﬂect its terrifying and destabilizing consequences. A small group of American photographers shifted their modern, naturalistic, optimistic outlook to a more abstract, surreal, and pessimistic stance.