Photographer Minesh Bacrania in his darkroom. Photo by Drew Bacrania
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
You never know where Minesh Bacrania’s photographs are going to show up, and this is one of the things the Los Alamos Reporter finds fascinating about him. Bacrania moved to Los Alamos in 2005 and worked for a few years at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a research scientist developing novel scintillating and cryogenic radiation detectors for nuclear forensics and nonproliferation applications. In 2012, Bacrania decided to throw in the towel and pursue his passion for photography.
“I’m always captivated by the people and stories I find where the human, physical, and cultural geographies of New Mexico intersect,” he told the Los Alamos Reporter in a recent interview.
Bacrania’s subjects range from artists to scientists, ranchers to writers. You may come across his work in a New Mexico Magazine article on bighorn sheep conservation, a documentary story for Preservation Magazine on the revitalization of a Northern New Mexico pueblo, or a portrait for a WSJ feature on Santa Fe “Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin.
With a background in experimental nuclear physics, Bacrania has always been fascinated by the history and culture of the nuclear age. In between assignment work, his personal “Los Alamos Project” is an attempt to preserve and share the stories of the people and places around Los Alamos that are associated with that history.
Bacrania recently published “Dormitory” as the first volume in his Los Alamos Project.
“I think of it as a portrait of the former Women’s Auxiliary Corps Dormitory on 17th Street, one of the few remaining buildings from the Manhattan Project era in Los Alamos,” he said.
With the generous permission of the Los Alamos Christian Science Society, Bacrania spent more than a year exploring and photographing (with a 4×5 view camera) the historic dormitory-turned-church prior to its purchase by Los Alamos County in 2019. Built in 1942, the dormitory was used by the WAC from August 24, 1943 until the detachment was deactivated in 1946. Some 400 WACs worked at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project in positions varying from clerks to scientists and engineers.
The cover of Minesh Bacrania’s new book ‘Dormitory’. Courtesy photo
For a long time, the building housed the Christian Science Society and was preserved in its original 1940s style and in excellent condition. The dormitory is expected to become part of the Manhattan Project National Historic Park.
A preview of the project and first edition of the “Dormitory” book (limited to 100 signed copies) can be seen on Bacrania’s website.
“For me, photography is a wonderful excuse to explore the world and tell stories about people and places. This project started as a way to satisfy my random curiosity about that particular building, and I’ve been thrilled and encouraged that so many people have been interested in the book and the larger goals of my Los Alamos Project,” Bacrania said.
A scene from insided the WAC dormitory. Photo by Minesh Bacrania
A corner of the WAC Dormitory building as preserved by the Christian Science Society. Photo by Minesh Bacrania