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Portfolio & Interview: Clay Lipsky on Atomic Overlook

Photographer's Showcase Portfolio & Interview: Clay Lipsky on Atomic Overlook photo-eye is pleased to announce Atomic Overlook a portfolio of color images by photographer Clay Lipsky, new to the Photographer’s Showcase. Atomic Overlook re-contextualizes a legacy of atomic bomb tests in order to keep the ongoing nuclear threat fresh and omnipresent.
Atomic Overlook: 01 – Clay Lipsky

photo-eye is pleased to announce Atomic Overlook, a portfolio of color images by photographer Clay Lipsky, new to the Photographer’s Showcase. Atomic Overlook re-contextualizes a legacy of atomic bomb tests in order to keep the ongoing nuclear threat fresh and omnipresent. It also speaks to the current state of the world, a voyeuristic, tourist filled culture where catastrophe is viewed as entertainment by increasingly desensitized masses. The iconic mushroom cloud, a loaded symbol burned into our collective subconscious, represents a triumph of science, apocalyptic destruction and even national pride, but in this case also serves as metaphor for larger societal issues such as global warming, nuclear power, industrialization and pollution. Archival pigment prints are available in limited editions of 10.

Atomic Overlook: 12 – Clay Lipsky

photo-eye:     Can you tell us a little bit about how Atomic Overlook got started?

Clay Lipsky:     Atomic Overlook was a series that came about very organically. Over the course of many years I amassed a collection of images with people gazing into bleak landscapes. For me this initial series spoke about introspection, tourism and our physical insignificance versus the natural world. However as time moved on I eventually wanted to say more with the underlying concept of "man vs. world." Working as a graphic designer I have always been keen on iconography and I see the mushroom cloud as the ultimate universal symbol. Combined with my fascination for the dawn of the atomic era, being raised on the tourist filled shores of Florida, working in mass media and interests in pushing the photographic medium an opportunity was born. Once I mixed these inspirations, other meanings began to appear. I feel the resulting images have a mix of dark humor, mystery, voyeurism, remixed history and surreal fiction that speaks to the lunacy of nuclear diplomacy and beyond. My initial composites were based on images culled from my existing archive but ultimately I ventured to shoot with intent to further the smaller stories within.

Atomic Overlook: 10 – Clay Lipsky

pe:     What process or processes did you use to create the images?

CL:      Atomic Overlook are photomontages that combine my photography (originally shot on 35mm, medium format film and digital) with images sourced from the historical record and beyond. The tourist photos are un-staged scenes that I framed over the years while traveling. The rural desert and oceanic settings are fitting since that is where the original atomic tests took place, thus perpetuating the illusion of historical accuracy. I unified the various composites into a square format to create visual cohesion and a stylish nod to vintage color photography. The biggest challenge I faced was creating convincing digital photo composites of antiquated black and white images with modern color photography. It became a puzzle of selecting photos that worked well together in terms of lighting, content and composition. Additionally the historical photos were of such varying qualities that most required heavy retouching, colorization and often had to be digitally re-painted. Above ground nuclear testing was such a brief time in our Nation’s history so the amount of source material I have to work with this project is limited.

Atomic Overlook: 11 – Clay Lipsky

pe:      What's next for Atomic Overlook? Are you planning to continue the series?

CL:     I will probably not pursue extending the series but am interested to let the surreal images continue to live on. On the surface the Atomic Overlook series seeks to remind us of the ongoing nuclear threat, yet beyond the sensational juxtapositions there are many other layers of meaning. Concepts of voyeurism, catastrophe as spectacle, desensitization to media, pollution, industrialization, technology, tourism and the frustration of global issues beyond our control are all implied within the photos. It is this complex mix of art and social issues infused with dark humor that helped Atomic Overlook go viral online in 2012.

View Atomic Overlook on the Photographer's Showcase

For more information, or to purchase prints, please contact Gallery Director Anne Kelly at 505-988-5152 x 121 or