One day, in the 1970s, the photographer Robert Adams noticed a column of smoke rising above the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant near Denver, Colorado and decided to document the potential destruction of a nuclear disaster. The resulting series “Our Lives and Our Children” is exhibited this summer at the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson (to July 29, 2018).
Robert Adams (born in 1937) is known for his environmental concerns and photographs depicting the changing landscape of the American West. The photographer—armed with a Hasselblad, hidden behind a shopping bag—documented people for this series going about their daily lives, seemingly oblivious to the potential danger… much like people now. Change haircuts, add some smartphones and the pictures could have been taken today.
The photos quietly protest stumbling into an apocalypse. Although taken in the seventies when Adams was imagining the impact of a future nuclear accident (like the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 or Fukushima Daiichi, 2011) today the risk of nuclear catastrophe is even greater than it was then. One indicator, the “Doomsday Clock” was recently set at just two minutes to midnight due to the looming threats of nuclear war. It has only been set there twice since 1947, once in 1953 and the other now
For “Our Lives and Our Children” Adams was particularly interested in the visible ties between people in the grip of a potential danger, known but invisible. Hidden beneath the apparent tranquillity of these women, men and children, there’s a taut line between the chance that seems to bring them together and the almost imperceptible danger of a nuclear disaster which Robert Adams believes is inevitable.
In 1983, Aperture published the first edition, now out of print, of this series of photographs taken between 1979 and 1982 under the title Our Lives and Our Children, Photographs Taken Near The Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. In 2003, Matthew Marks Gallery in New York presented an exhibition and catalogue featuring a second series of unseen works entitled No Small Journeys, Across Shopping Center Parking Lots, Down City Streets. The current exhibition — the last before HCB moves to a new location in the Marais— is showing both projects.
“Our Lives and Our Children” to July 29, 2018, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2, Impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris