The Prohibited Zone—Australian Atomic Landscapes

Through photography, this work explores two mainland Australian atomic test sites. The photographs look at the post-atomic Australian landscape, specifically focusing on the former South Australian test sites established by the British Government at both Maralinga and Emu Field at the beginning of the Cold War (1953-63).

The photographs were taken in both of these locations, presenting different perspectives of the Australian landscape. The images have been influenced by the largely unknown and secretive lens of British atomic bomb photography. They create a new understanding of place by questioning what the military and allied scientists brought to bear on the surface of the earth, both conceptually and physically.

The work captures similar locations in the South Australian desert as identified by the British military. It activates contemporary concerns, examining the invisibility and limitation imposed by both radiation and isolation on conceptual and physical investigations of the land. These photographs propose a new interpretation of these South Australian desert landscapes, challenging the authority of earlier British scientific photographic records and their depictions of these regions.

Most of the images in this exhibition do not identify the actual locations of the atomic tests, known as Ground Zero. They instead reveal the almost invisible details of the land, suggesting that European meaning has transcended the physical surroundings shown in the photographs, in which they are transformed through a reductivist monochromatic tone and poisonous lead-like skies.

What these photographs contain is a new language of photography that draws heavily on the history of nuclear weapons testing and a connection to the Nuclear Weapons Complex, an overarching concept of thought, terror and installations relevant to the Australian landscape. Each photograph in this exhibition explores different methodologies and concepts derived over many years of working through this material and many different approaches to it.
A key concept for this exhibition is the invisibility of radiation and the paradox that invisibility brings to photography.

The photographs are exhibited as prints at the UNSW Galleries, corner of Oxford Street and Greens Road, Paddington, New South Wales 2021 Australia (11–26 August, 2017).

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people are respectfully advised that a number of places/country depicted in the photographs in this exhibition are culturally sensitive.

No photography of works in the exhibition is permitted under any circumstances, including for social media. Media requests for images must be made through UNSW Galleries.

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Only a small representation of this work will be released online. Other images and curatorial content can be obtained by using the contact link supplied in the ‘about’ menu.

None of these images can be reproduced or made available without permission.