Now through October 31, the Weitman Gallery, Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts at Washington University in Saint Louis will feature work from the Director of the School of Communications, Anthony Thompson.
The Incendiary Iconography Exhibition features documentary photographs of the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant and related waste disposal sites. Thompson also produced documentary writing with the photographs.
“I had done a project in Wisconsin before this one where I photographed an army munitions plant, and that made me interested in the visual qualities of these military industrial sites,” Thompson said. “I was interested in the contrast between what the plant did and how it looked. When you’re there it feels like you’re in a mundane factory but in reality, the plant is its own community.”
The nuclear plant was shut down in 1989 by the Environmental Protection Agency, and later decommissioned by the Clinton Administration. The Rocky Flats plant was scattered with leaking drums and nuclear waste that was not properly disposed of. This unsafe environment was cleaned up, and the land restored to a wildlife preserve (the lowest level of cleanup for such a site).
Thompson grew up near the plant and knew the connection it had to the area. He wanted to capture how the plant looked from when it was operational to being completely removed. During the demolition, Thompson visited the site various times. He had to attain security clearance and permission to photograph, and was always escorted around the premises. Thompson underwent different types of training to protect against radiation and chemical poisoning during his work in the plant.
The exhibition has been featured at various other colleges across the country including, the University of Northern Colorado, Louisiana Tech University, and Texas Tech University.