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Seeing Past the Mushroom Cloud – A Book Review

December 1, 2020

A deeply passionate study of how photography has shaped our view of the Bomb

John O’Brian, The Bomb in the Wilderness: Photography and the Nuclear Era in Canada (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2020), 244 pages, 124 illustrations, $32.95 (paper).

Years ago on a visit to China, an old man taught me that I needed to look more deeply into the water below if I wanted to see the fish. Now John O’Brian has done me the same service regarding how I look at the atomic age. Art historian O’Brian has brought together all his powers of observation and perception to help us rethink how we view the history and the mystery of the bomb. He guides us on a photographic tour from the horrifying explosions in 1945 to the atomic sabre rattling of the Cold War to the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought us to the brink of nuclear war.

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