Hiroshima and Nagasaki Bombings Remembered

Yasuaki Yamashita, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki.  (Photo by Paule Saviano)

Yasuaki Yamashita, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Nagasaki. (Photo by Paule Saviano)

It has been 69 years since the U.S. dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As he has done for the last 20 years, Rev. Dr. Kenjitsu Nakagai, a Buddhist priest living in New York, organized an interfaith memorial event to commemorate the bombings.

On August 5, a peace gathering will be held at the West Park Presbyterian Church on West 86th Street in Manhattan, while a peace concert will be held on August 8. (Hiroshima was bombed on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9.)

Forming a backdrop for the events is a photography exhibit, “From Above,” with photos taken by Paule Saviano of various survivors of the bombings. Some of the photos appeared in a book of the same title, published in Tokyo.

Rev. Dr. Kenjitsu Nakagai (Photo by Kinue Imai Weinstein for Voices of NY)

Rev. Dr. Kenjitsu Nakagai (Photo by Kinue Imai Weinstein for Voices of NY)

Although the book was published in 2011, Saviano continues to seek out and photograph aging survivors of the bombing, in order to take their portraits and collect their thoughts before they die. As part of the project he interviews his subjects and accompanies their photographs with quotes.

The photographer spoke about his project at a kickoff reception for the commemoration on August 1. “I wanted the human faces to tell the history,” he said.

A number of hibakusha (nuclear bomb victims) lived outside Japan after World War II. Hideo Sotobayashi, for example, lived in Berlin since the 1950s and started speaking about his “hibakusha” story only after the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster brought on by the tsunami in March 2011. Saviano photographed him just eight months before Mr. Sotobayashi’s death.

Paule Saviano at the exhibit "From Above." (Photo by Kinue Imai Weinstein for Voices of NY)

Paule Saviano at the exhibit “From Above.” (Photo by Kinue Imai Weinstein for Voices of NY)

It was during a photo exhibit he had in Tokyo in 2007 that Saviano, a native of Brooklyn, became interested in the nuclear bomb victims. With assistance from the Peace Wing of Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, he met victims in 2008.

The book “From Above,” contains 51 black-and-white photos. In addition to victims of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it includes pictures of the Bikini Incident (at the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands), a nuclear testing disaster in the 1950s, and the fire bombings of Tokyo and Dresden, Germany, during World War II.

This is what Hidetaka Komine, a survivor of Nagasaki, told Saviano: “I was 4 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped. So I don’t know ‘normal life.’ I hated the war for a long time, but realized having a grudge does nothing. I have to speak and leave messages to the next generation.”

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  1. Pingback: IN PHOTOS ~~ REMEMBERING HIROSHIMA | Desertpeace

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