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Photo of the Week: Toshio Fukada

Photo of the Week - 07.08.15

by Claire Monneraye

On 6 August 1945, at 08:15, an American bomber dropped the first atomic bomb, ‘Little Boy’, over Hiroshima, which was followed by the bombing of Nagasaki on 9 August 2015, leaving the Japanese cities destroyed and hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Although the images of the actual blasts are rare, every photograph of mushroom-shaped clouds has become in retrospect the symbol of the unimaginable, haunting universal memory and consciousness. Images of mushroom clouds imply a diabolical paradox that exists in the perspective and distance they are photographed from. Always captured from afar and often detached from their context, they mark the human supremacy over nature while suggesting its illusory and vain character. Evil beauty always happens in the distance of perception and experience, indirect and fantasied. 

It is this distance that the image below challenges, forcing the external gaze to interrogate what it would be like to be inside the inconceivable.

Toshio Fukada's clouds were photographed just a few minutes after the Americans dropped their bomb over Hiroshima. A 17-year-old student at the time, Fukada was shielded by Hijiyama Hill, when he heard the blast; he rushed to fetch his camera and  hastily captured dense images of the tragically tumultuous skyscape.

This photograph was recently included in the exhibition Conflict, Time, Photography presented at the Tate Modern and curated by Simon Baker and Shoair Mavlian.

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Image: Toshio Fukada , The Mushroom Cloud – Less than twenty minutes after the explosion, 1945.
© The estate of Toshio Fukada. Courtesy of Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography