2011 – John OBrian

This year 2011 the Thakore Family Foundation, The India Club of Vancouver, Institute for the Humanities and the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University celebrates the 21st annual Gandhi Jayanti Celebration with an Award to John O’Brian, for his recent work on how the history of the imagery related to the Atomic Bomb has acclimated us to the bomb.

He will speak on the subject of:

 Through a Radioactive Lens: The Nuclear Era, Photography, and Canada.

Professor O’Brian’s academic work has a deep relationship to Canadian culture’s history, in particular how art and images relate to thinking how the engagement of photography with the atomic era in Canada has influenced our ambivalence toward the presence of the atomic bomb worldwide. His research forms part of a larger project on nuclear photography in North America and Japan, called “Camera Atomica.” “Camera Atomica” is also the name of an exhibition he is preparing for the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Professor O’Brian’s illustrated talk will show the flash points and intersections between nuclear events and Canada’s ambivalence about its role in those events, the existence of non-violent protest, and the uses of photography as a cultural image bank for our nuclear times.  He will trace Canada’s changing opinions of the health hazards of atomic testing and the arms race and how anti-nuclear peace movements, the uses of atomic research and atomic energy then and now, have shaped Canada’s self-image. In histories of nuclear protest, it is sometimes forgotten that the first Aldermaston anti-atomic March in England occurred in 1952 and was called Operation Gandhi, and involved 35 people.