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Shomei Tomatsu: NAGASAKI

May 28, 2016 - July 18, 2016

Over a period of fifty years, Shomei Tomatsu (1930-2012), one of post-war Japan’s foremost photographers, continued to photograph Nagasaki. In this exhibition we present some 350 works that trace the recovery of that city, reduced like Hiroshima to an atomic wasteland, with a particular focus on its history and cultural climate.

Born in Nagoya, Tomatsu moved to Tokyo after graduating from Aichi University and became a staffer at Iwanami Shashin Bunko. After a few years he became independent, and in 1959 he founded the photographic cooperative VIVO together with Ikko Narahara, Eikoh Hosoe and others. He developed a unique expressive style by keenly observing society, strongly influencing the next-generation of photographers, including Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama.

Tomatsu first visited Nagasaki to take photographs in 1961, publishing in collaboration with Ken Domon Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document 1961. He was greatly shocked by the depth of the scars left by the atomic bombing and the suffering of the victims and returned to Nagasaki numerous times, culminating in the publication in 1966 of 11:02 Nagasaki. At the same time, prompted by his experience over many years of photographing US military bases in Japan, he traveled to Okinawa and photographed around the islands of Okinawa and in various locations in Southeast Asia, resulting in the publication of one of his most important works, Pencil of the Sun (1975). It was during this period that his work transitioned from black and white to color.

In 1998 Tomatsu moved to Nagasaki, exploring the region on foot and capturing on multiple levels the expressive townscapes with their diverse histories and cultures, nature, the humorous mannerisms of people and animals, and the festivals that symbolize Nagasaki, all the time maintaining a gaze that “accompanied” A-bomb victims of the same generation. With his black-and-white works, there is a forcefulness that seems to well up from the consummately calculated composition and light and shadow, while with his vivid color works it is as if one can feel everything down to the texture of the details. Aided by a style known as “gunshashin”(photo-constallations) or “mandala” whereby photos are grouped together regardless of any theme or the year or location in which they were shot, this compelling world in which a social perspective and artistry coexist beyond space-time speaks of many things to those of us who encounter Shomei Tomatsu’s work. (HMOCA)


  • Adults ¥1030 (¥820)
  • College students ¥720 (¥620)
  • High school students and seniors (65 and over) ¥510 (¥410)
  • Junior high school students and younger Free

Prices in () advance purchase price and groups of 30 or more


May 28, 2016
July 18, 2016
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1-1 Hijiyama-koen, Minami-ku
Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken 732-0815 Japan
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