The weird thing about the documentation of the nuclear bomb tests is the way it often defamiliarizes the subjects. On the still images some of the explosions look like a pieces of abstract art bursting out of realistic landscape. You can't even tell if it is actually an explosion. If you look at some of the aerial tests photos - it might be like a slightly abstracter Turner thing.
This strange effect translates into motion too. While in motion the explosions are still a symphonies of destruction and absolutely abhorrent atrocity - it also feels bizarrely subdued, lacking the punch as if the moving images drained the explosion of its energy. It looks like a very big lab test from school. Which is a perplexing feeling.
It takes an effort to distance yourself from the fact that these things were designed to destroy. But once you go beyond that you start to notice the aesthetic qualities of the thing.
This is a footage from an Operation Hardtack-1. This particular test was conducted on July 22, 1958. It is a 65 kiloton bomb. The footage starts with a blinding flash after which the white cloud occurs turns blue turns black and slowly dissipates revealing enormous black mushroom cloud going up in the sky.
The image burns into memory - this enthralling black void in a form of a mushroom cloud that hangs in the space like a thorn in the side.
Or here's Johnnie. This video presents a very different presentation. It is slowed down to a crawl and goes on for eight minutes. The explosion is filmed from a very large distance. Mushroom cloud slowly evolves, gradually disintegrates into nondescript whirl of smoke and dust. First straightens into a something of a pillar, then the upper part swells. It pretends to be a balloon for a moment before it starts to fold in two laying down on earth as a thick mist. Because of the chosen pace it is grueling.
And here's Danny! This is also a slowed down footage. It shows the underground explosion. The ground slowly swells and burst into a nondescript shambles before an abrupt cutoff. It is somewhat confusing but nonetheless rather disturbing if you think about it.
Turk 28100 is probably one of the most beautiful documentations of the atomic explosion ever. Seriously. The way the flash in the sky turns into a fiery bowl of energy that engulfs everything around is something to behold.
The explosion bubble from the very start looks more like a piece of abstract art than a weapon of mass destruction in action.
Here's another something-something. This one is from the Operation Dominic. It is a slowed down footage of a flash in the sky that turns into a large ball of nondescript matters that grows and grows and lights up all the surroundings until it is blinding white. The ball of light hangs in the sky and slowly dissipates into thin air.
The cloud nearby is the strangest thing in this video. It just hangs around and slowly moves from right to left.
This particular footage looks like of the abstract experimental films from the 50s from the guys like Stan Brakhage.
Kickappo is an explosion in the sky. It occurs in the middle of the pitch black darkness, burns itself out and dissolves in the blackness. What happens after that is probably beyond comprehension.
This one is a bit of a non-thing and it is also one of the weirdest. It is just a flash in the sky that stuck and pretends to be a part of the scenery.
Bighorn was another aerial test. It looks a symphonic poem. The thing starts with a flash that takes a moment to burst out to the full force. It hangs in the middle shining brighter and brighter while everything around goes darker and darker.
After a while the ball of light disintegrates, its lower part dissolves and its upper part pretends to a Cathedral.
Don't get me wrong, anyway you think about it - it is the thing that should not be. It is disgusting. But it doesn't mean that it doesn't look nice.