The moment of the detonation of the world’s first nuclear device could be considered the beginning of the Anthropocene. On July 16, 1945, at 5:29 a.m. and 45 seconds, the United States Army conducted the first test of a nuclear weapon. The beginning of the nuclear age marks a historic turning point when humans first accessed an enormous source of new energy, but also developed the ability to destroy themselves.
The world of B. Partenheimer’s photographs has drastically severed its ties with nature, systematically appropriating even the last pieces yet untouched. Seemingly poetic landscapes are, in fact, images of cities from a modern civilization polluted by industry. The artist has captioned the separate photographs from the series Particulate Matter, taken in China, with the various air quality index scores.* Using the visual techniques of landscape painters of the Romantic epoch of the 19th century, Partenheimer mainly photographs from elevated vantage points, emphasizing the reduced visibility in a diminished toxic space, a product of the 21st century.
*According to the World Health Organization, an index surpassing 300 is extremely dangerous to the health. Normal values range from 0 to 50.
What looks like a mist risen out of the river, is in fact smog. Scientific studies have shown that many cities in China but also other cities around the world have become unsafe for human habitation. Air pollution has become too concentrated and too dangerous. A recent report from the World Health Organization shows that air pollution kills 7 million people per year and is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. The video reflects the consequences that come along with excessive economic growth and the combustion of carbon-based fuels.