Tomatsu Shomei <11:02> Nagasaki An Overview


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…11:02 Nagasaki contains elements of documentary practice mixed with an emotional and highly subjective style of photography. In essence, the book is caught, like Kawada’s Chizu, between two schools of thought regarding photography. On the one hand, there is a legacy of photography that considers politics and a (at times) saccharine humanism, seen primarily in the work of Domon Ken and his circle and by proximity extends itself to Tomatsu’s book. This element of Tomatsu’s work relies on some indebtedness to narrative and storytelling devices and hints at styles developed from photographic magazines of the 50s. On the other hand, something colder and more agitated in the work confronts the legacy of the bomb and American occupation through a direct investigation of their outcomes and does not shy away from positing a political sentiment about those topics. The use of atmospheric images, shuttered in a cloak of melancholy, is less about storylining than it is about anger and doubt. This is particularly noticeable at the halfway point when Tomatsu flips from atmospheric landscape and object studies to the incredibly brooding, minute, and horror-driven studies of human skin left keloid scarred by the bomb. Texture permeates Tomatsu’s photographs. They are uncomfortable debris of human culture left deformed by the bomb and are essentially stand-ins for their human counterparts found towards the mid-way point of the sequence. The opening image of the stopped watch at 11:02 refers, quite blatantly, to the time the bomb exploded over Nagasaki and decimated the population, arresting time and life. It is also an oblique metaphor for photography itself…


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