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Frozen moments from the infinity that is time


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ICAN …. can you?

I had expected to be posting on a different subject, but changed my mind when I learned that the Nobel Peace Prize 2017 was awarded to International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons”.

Having visited Hiroshima a number of times, the first time being six years ago to the day, the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize award to ICAN resonated with me. Prior to my visits I was, like many people I expect, horrified at the potential for nuclear weapons to be used again. However, spending time at the site of humankind’s single most horrific act focused my understanding on how truly horrific the use of nuclear weapons was and can be. From that moment I have strongly believed that the stories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki must continue to be told and it was most pleasing to hear this sentiment echoed by President Obama during his speech at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial on 27 May 2016, when he said: “But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”

Technology has taken great leaps forward since 1945 and the destructive power of today’s nuclear warheads is many times greater than the weapons used in 1945. When considered alongside the current emergence of leaders apparently more driven by ego than wisdom, ICAN’s work is timely.

Can one person make a difference? Can you or I effect the destruction of nuclear stockpiles? The answer is, of course, no! But just as it takes many stitches to make a blanket, you and I combined can, over time, make a difference. We cannot rely on politicians acting independently to make such a monumental change. The self anointed “political class” lack the moral fortitude to take the lead. If it is to happen they must be dragged by the undeniable weight of public opinion to act and perhaps this is what President Obama during his Hiroshima speech was alluding to with the words: “Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.”

The photographs I have chosen are a combination of historic photographs and photographs of paintings made by survivors almost 60 years later of their memories from 6 August 1945. The clarity of those memories reflected through their art talks directly to the impact on their lives. I have also included links below to a series of posts I made on Hiroshima in August 2014.

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/07/time-and-place-hiroshima/

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/15/hiroshima-peace-museum/

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/25/peace-park-memorials-hiroshima/

https://johnliddlephotography.com/2014/08/30/shukkeien-gardens-hiroshima/

Thank you for reading and I hope you will consider your position on this important issue.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)

 

 

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Hiroshima Peace Museum

In my last post I described Hiroshima’s Dome Building as the most enduring symbol of the catastrophic events of August 6, 1945 when an atomic bomb was exploded over Hiroshima. Today, looking across the Motoyasu River from the Dome Building, the wasteland has been regenerated in the form of the magnificent Peace Park, at the end of which and in a direct line of sight to the Dome Building lies the Hiroshima Peace Museum (pic 1).

Peace Museum approach

Peace Museum approach

For those readers who would like to see vision of the Peace Museum soon after its opening, I suggest watching a classic French movie titled “Hiroshima Mon Amour”. As the title implies, the movie is set in post-war Hiroshima and the opening scenes contain some interesting footage, including a walk through the Peace Museum and some early footage of the Peace Park during development.

A visit to Hiroshima is incomplete without visiting the Peace Museum and my advice would be to allow more time than you may expect. Given the historic event it exists to portray, the Museum is confronting in the way it provides an accurate and objective account of the events of August 6 1945 and thereafter. In fact, the objectivity and lack of rancor in the presentation of the story is commendable and refreshing. The horror and atrocity is, of course, recognised and discussed, but most importantly the emphasis shifts to the need to learn from what happened and ensure that history is not repeated. It is a museum that should not be rushed and can be visited more than once.

Today’s photographs are mostly shots of Museum exhibits, including a number of archival photographs on display in the Museum. The pictures tell the story. The model at pic 2 shows the hypocentre of the blast as the red pole just to the right of the Dome Building where, it is estimated, the temperature would have approximated 4000 degrees Celsius. One can also note the intersection of the two bridges to the left of the Dome Building forming the T that was the target point for the Enola Gay’s bombardier.

One minute following the explosion, the mushroom cloud photograph (pic 3) was taken by Russell E Gackenbach; a crewman on the Necessary Evil, which accompanied the Enola Gay. It was reported by Russell Gackenbach that the crew’s return journey was made in silence after witnessing the event.

Whilst there is no need for further description of the pain and suffering depicted by pics 5 and 6, the obvious tenderness of the Red Cross nurse and the gratitude of her patient at pic 7 is a heartwarming image of the human spirit.

The series of shots (pics 10 to 16) titled Memories of the day give an insight into the minds of survivors and are particularly compelling when one considers the drawings and paintings were made decades later. One hopes the process of graphically sharing their recollections provided some level of comfort to the contributors, yet their clarity of memory is a frightening reminder of the lasting effects of traumatic events.

On a more positive note, pic 17 shows a 1956 photograph of Japanese students seeking support for the establishment of a Children’s Peace Monument. Their efforts were successful and photographs of the monument will be shown in my next post.

An ongoing role of the Peace Museum is to monitor nuclear testing internationally and via the Peace Watch Tower (pic 18) located in the Museum foyer, to display the number of days since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and the number of days since the last nuclear test. At the time of posting this blog (August 15, 2014), the current figures are 24,923 days and 49 days respectively.

I strongly recommend anyone visiting Hiroshima to spend time visiting the Peace Museum and the other memorials within the Peace Park. Although the history is dark and sombre, its purpose is to advocate for an end to nuclear arms and a brighter, less oppressive future for all. I have never before written a comment in a Visitors Book. However, during my first visit, I commented to the effect that all newly elected politicians should spend a few days there before taking office, in the hope that they may better understand the futility of war. Perhaps the hope is futile, but who knows!

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)


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Time and Place (Hiroshima)

Please take a few moments to dwell on the first photograph, rather than dismiss it as merely a bland image of another Japanese street, free of litter and showing people going about their business in an orderly manner. View it as a photograph of time and place – two variables that have such a defining influence on our lives. Where would you rather be: the right place at the right time or the wrong place at the wrong time?

The T intersection

The T intersection

Everyone in the photograph was safe in that place and time. However, at the same place at 8.15am on August 6, 1945 the cyclist at the centre of the pedestrian crossing would have been the target for the bombardier on the Enola Gay, the US bomber assigned to drop an atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima. A moment that changed the world forever!

The target point was the T-intersection more clearly shown in the archival photograph at pic 2, in which, coincidentally, a cyclist is at almost the same position. Today the two bridges forming the T look much the same and it is easy to forget the historical significance of the place. However, we should not forget how significantly life changed in a blinding flash, a memory poignantly captured by a survivor’s words reproduced at pic 3. From the archival images at pics 4 and 5, one can gain a sense of the destruction, as well as identify the most enduring symbol of the event – the Dome Building.

I was unprepared for my first visit to Hiroshima and the range of emotions one encounters by spending time in the proximity of the Dome Building. Despite having seen images and documentary footage and having a general understanding of the history, it was nevertheless a surreal feeling to be standing at the site of such a horrific event.

Although one tries to imagine what it would have been like, this is, of course, impossible. Some things are beyond imagination. The overpowering feeling was that of sorrow and if one is honest, a feeling of guilt by association of being a national from an allied nation. This took me by surprise. History positions the bombing as a necessary evil within the overall context of an even more horrific war, an argument that can be grasped intellectually. However, when standing at the scene, humanism outweighs intellectualism.

Almost seventy years later, the Dome Building (pics 6 to 16) stands as a reminder, but not the only reminder. Hiroshima continues to wear the scars in less obvious ways. The resilience of the people is commendable in the way they overcame the trauma to rebuild their city and their lives and the smiles of Hiroshima residents are the most genuine one will encounter. Nevertheless, the city presents differently to other Japanese cities.

Hiroshima is playing catch-up. One does not see the obvious lifestyle signs that one sees in (say) Tokyo and Osaka; one does not see as many glitzy high-rise developments; and even in the general demeanor of everyday life, one detects a more serious approach to life – as if the mission is unfinished. In a subsequent and longer visit to Hiroshima, I became more aware of signs that the city is poised to burst free and flower again. The mission is unfinished and below the surface bubbles a subdued excitement.

We must not forget Hiroshima. What happened there and at Nagasaki must never happen again and I firmly believe that awareness is the key to success. August 6, 1945 was a shocking start to the story, yet the real story is how the negative became a positive through people helping people and Japan becoming a strong advocate for peace and for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Thank you for reading this far and if the subject is of interest, there is a considerable volume of information available online and in libraries around the world. I will be staying with Hiroshima for two or three more posts and I hope you will continue to show an interest. I read somewhere a criticism that Hiroshima was just emotional tourism (or words to that effect). Well, what is wrong with that? It does not hurt us to have our senses awakened to think about important issues. Maybe history keeps repeating because we forget. Let’s not forget this time.

(Please click on any of the following images for an enlarged view.)