The Seattle Times Web Edition: 50 Years from Trinity

ALAN BERNER, a native of St. Louis, Missouri, has degrees in philosophy and photojournalism from the University of Missouri. A staff photographer at the Seattle Times for 14 years, Berner has worked for five newspapers.
   He has been involved in numerous projects of social concern including coverage of Washington's American Indian tribes, Seattle's homeless, world-wide pollution and growth in the Puget Sound region.
   He has been a faculty member of the Missouri Workshop, the Flying Short Course sponsored by the National Press Photographer's Association and the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar.
   He's worked on a number of multi-photographer book projects including "A Day In the Life of America," "A Day In the Life of California," "Power To Heal" and "Descubriendo Ecuador."
   The National Press Photographer's Association has named Berner the Regional Press Photographer of the Year three times (1988, '89, and '90) and he's been a runnerup five times. He is this year's recipient of the Nikon/NPPA Documentary Sabbatical grant for the topic "The American West in the l990's."

[IMAGE: Photographer Alan
Berner riding on a
nuclear submarine] Alan Berner took this self-portrait atop the sail of a Trident submarine as it cruised through Hood Canal in western Washington at the beginning of a 70-day patrol.


   The Trinity Site atomic explosion on July 16, l945 is the single most important event of the 20th century.
   It alters everything that follows.
   It was an inevitable development.
   Anniversary events are not, in and of themselves, fascinating, with the possible exception of personal ones. Say, had my parents made it to a 50th wedding anniversary.
   But anniversaries can be useful for exploring significant topics because of the attention that accompanies those dates.
   The tenth anniversary of Elvis' death. The 20th anniversary of Earth Day. These are topics I was able to cover simply because of the milepost reached -- and the opportunity it presented to look back, and consider what the original event meant.
   In December of 1994, I submitted a proposal for a series on the Trinity explosion. I wanted to be able to take people down the road that lead to it ... and the road that lead from it: to Hanford and Los Alamos; to the Hibakusha or atomic bomb survivors; to Ground Zero at the Nevada Test Site, to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository Site, onto Trident submarines and inside nuclear power plants, both working and failed.
   Curiosity and the chance to go to difficult-access and off-limits areas to help explain a significant topic drove this project for me. It was a chance to take people to places they can't visit or wouldn't even think of.
   Bill and I have been able to do that on this and other topics we've covered.
   Standing atop the sail of the Trident submarine USS Nevada, the most powerful weapon on the planet, I felt a little like Slim Pickins in "Dr. Strangelove" as he rode a nuclear bomb out of the the bay of a B-52.
   It was both thrilling and horrifying.

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