DECLASSIFIED Hanford a national secret
Images of a time, a place and a secret.
In December 1942, one year after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt claimed over 600 acres of desert steppe land near the confluence of the Columbia and Yakima rivers in Southeastern Washington State for a top-secret project. Up to that point the region had been a quiet farming community, but due to its unique ecological and geographic properties it was chosen to be the home of the world’s first nuclear bomb. These 600 acres are now considered to be the most toxic place in America. This place is Hanford Washington - where I’m from.
The story of Hanford had been a national secret, one that few people fully understood until August 1945, when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Only in the wake of those 135,000 deaths did the people of Hanford begin to learn the purpose of their town: to produce the plutonium that fueled one of America’s atomic bombs.
As a native of this profoundly secretive and conflicted place, I grew up in a culture where larger truths were never known. My father managed Nuclear Operations at Hanford and has only recently begun to reveal his secrets.
As an artist, I am drawn Hanford’s many ironies, not the least of which are: the extreme beauty of the untouched land that covers a vast amount of toxic waste, a high-school mascot that symbolizes my hometown’s infamy (a nuclear mushroom cloud), and street names which record the legacy that led to the death of so many and which changed the course of history. I wanted to document Hanford as a testament to resilience in the face of man’s destructive capacity.