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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

Work / Photography

Incredible LIFE pictures of the aftermath of a Cold War atomic bomb test

The American state of Nevada is most famous as being the home of Las Vegas, the pleasure capital of the world, but its empty stretches of deserts die a darker history. These incredible LIFE pictures by Loomis Dean capture the aftermath of a 1955 nuclear test designed to find out what manner of destruction an atomic bomb could reap on everything from homes, to canned food.

A small town populated by mannequins was erected and Loomis was right at the forefront as investigators inspected the effects of the bomb. His pictures have a winsome, straightforward beauty but also they unsettlingly echo a time – at the height of the Cold War – when humankind’s annihilation was a constant presence and exercises like this, as the excellent _LIFE _write-off pints out, were considered “routine.”

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955

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Loomis Dean for LIFE: After a nuclear weapon test, Nevada, 1955