The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA has a back lot with about 2 acres of the sort of hardware that fueled my nightmares in the ’90s. Military planes, missiles, and more are all in various stages of restoration or decay. Some are just left to be baked to dust by the New Mexico sun.

I had been shooting a 50-foot roll of Kodak Panatomic-X that had expired in 1984 and probably not been stored well. It was very badly fogged and not very sensitive- about as expired and left to rot as some of the instruments of nuclear hell near the Costco on Eubank Blvd. Plus, Panatomic-X at the Atomic Museum- you can see I had to just because of the poetry of it. 

I had not gotten good results from my first few rolls of this stuff, so I decided to just shoot the rest of what I had at EI 1 and hope for the best. The last roll was the best in terms of getting negatives that were way too dark and low contrast to print on an enlarger, but they did have enough range for the scanner to get something out of it.

I used a Nikon F3 with a Voigtlander 58mm F/1.4. I like the F3 for weird film because the winder has a very smooth pull with good feel so I think I’m a little less likely to shred the film or pull it off the spool on the last shot. The Voigtlander is my favorite view — just slightly telephoto. It’s probably just how I see the world due to wearing glasses from a young age. The shallow depth of field adds a bit to the aged look of the shots. 

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I’m normally not very careful when I scan negatives so you might notice some misplaced edges and other scanning artifacts. Part of my recent film practice is to embrace the dust specks and sprocket holes. The negative is one thing and the scanned image on the screen is also a thing but a different thing. Each step of the process can leave its mark- it’s fine. If I want a ‘quality’ image I’ll grab the DSLR but it has been gathering a lot of dust recently.

To be fair to the museum, it’s not all about nuclear annihilation. They do an excellent job preserving history and presenting a variety of topics related to nuclear science suitable for the young and old. It’s well worth a visit.

~ Andrew

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Andrew Collins

Andrew has a BFA in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University and works in New Mexico as a computer scientist. In between parenting twin boys, he shoots 35mm, 120, and digital. He recently stuck an enlarger in the corner of the laundry room and started...

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