Fifteen years after the bombing of Nagasaki at 11:02 am on August 9, 1945, Tomatsu Shomei began producing the stark black-and-white images published in this volume. For many in Japan like Tomatsu, who had known little about the bombing before traveling to the city, the book was a shocking reminder of the recent past that lay just below the surface of the new.
Tomatsu’s work represents a radical departure from the social realism of photographers like Hamaya Hiroshi and the expository narrative of photobooks like Ura Nihon. 11:02 Nagasaki, for example, offers deeply moving fragments of Tomatsu’s experience of the postwar city rather than attempting to serve as an objective document. Photographs of hibakusha (bomb victims) turned slightly away from his camera, Americans striding through the streets, and salarymen engrossed in their newspapers are interspersed with views of busy city life and mangled remnants of the bombing. Tomatsu’s masterful ability to render simple objects and straightforward images into powerful symbols made 11:02 Nagasaki one of the most important records of twentieth-century Japan.
Tomatsu Shomei (1930–2012)
Tokyo: Shashin Dojinsha, 1966
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Manfred Heiting Book Collection, museum purchase funded by the Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund, LIB.438