One thousand paper cranes

Last night I went to see the Salisbury candle float organised by CND in memory of those who died during the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was busier than I expected at the riverside, which was warming to see.

When I went to the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition in London last year, I was really struck by the photographs that Japanese photographers had taken at the time of the bombing and afterwards. I left the exhibition thinking “What if this were to happen to me?” It was a frightening thought, particularly as I have young children. The exhibition had and continues to have a profound impact on how I see things both in terms of my life but also in terms of the importance and continuing relevance of photography.

The actual event was quite interesting. The older man looking at the boards in the sequence of images below was actually from Russia and he spoke very little English. Naturally enough, I spoke very little Russian so I had a fairly entertaining time explaining the event to him when he tried to ask me what was going on. In the end, in pidgin English, he said ‘Stalin, Putin’. I wasn’t entirely sure if he thought they were great leaders, or something else.

The paper crane that is in a candle holder in another image is a reference to the Sadako Sasaki story that if she folded a 1000 origami cranes she would be granted a wish. She was two years old when the bomb was dropped and sadly died when she was 12 years old. One version of the story held that she only managed to folder 644 cranes before dying, with her school friends completing the rest and burying them with her.

180,000 people died in the bombings.

Remember Hiroshima

I went to the candle float in town tonight in remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings 70 years ago. I will post a proper article on the event soon, but here is a photo in the meantime…

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Conflict, Time, Photography Exhibition

I went to Tate Modern in London this week to see the Conflict, Time, Photography exhibition that started there on Tuesday. For me, it was a powerful experience. The photographs were organised, in a clever and sophisticated way by time after the actual war events. The first few images, such as of the mushroom cloud at Hiroshima taken at the time start the show. Then, as you progress through the exhibition space, the images move across weeks, months and years in separation from the specific event. The final images of the show are from the work of Chloe Dewe Matthews, (whose work I often admire) of the soldiers shot at dawn for desertion during the First World War.

The last image of the show, a beautiful dawn landscape in Vosges by Matthews, is a particularly poignant and unsettling take home message. The thoughts that ran through my mind me ‘what a beautiful place to die’ but also ‘what an awful way to die’.

As I drove home from the exhibition I felt strong feelings of sadness about the things that we have done, currently do, and will continue to do in the future to each other. The exhibition worked for me as it was very emotional, rather than intellectual or graphic in it’s presentation. A lot of the work felt very raw, disturbing and unsettling in it’s emotional intensity.

The work by Asian photographers Araki, Tomatsu and Tsuchida were particularly strong. Hiromi Tsuchida’s work Hiroshima Collection 1982-1995 was very touching. His work consisted of black and white photographs of items, such as a watch or a child’s jacket. There was a short story presented with the image, such as the child’s jacket being found in a tree by the family – but that the child was not seen again. The personal nature the items, the missing person, and the family connections gave a depth to the images and made me reflect on the situations that befell these people, and maybe try to imagine the terror that might they might have experienced (if they had time to think before they were killed).

One over aspect of the exhibition that impressed me, beyond how well it was put together using the structure of time, was the sheer level of creativity that people used to express their views on the experiences of war. For example, one person took a series of images of families and combined them as a ‘family tree’ during the Bosnian-Serb war in the 1990s. Some images only showed teeth or bone fragments, whilst others remained blank. The overall effect was shocking and deeply sad in the level of decimation that was inflicted on family relationships.

Personally, I felt that the images which were removed from the immediate scene of the action, such as Araki’s 2010 photographs of the sky ‘during’ the nine days in August between the first and second nuclear bombs dropped on Japan made me attempt to imagine the sky on the two days of importance, and more importantly what people might have experienced and felt. The works that gave a space to think, reflect and empathise were the strongest for me.

The exhibition runs to March 2015, I would certainly recommend a visit if you are passing by the Tate Modern Gallery in London.

Resting at Tate Modern