August 27th, 2016
..August 2016.. ..New York..
Earlier this week I received the sad news that Mrs. Yoshiko Hashimoto passed away in February at the age of 94. Mrs. Hashimoto was the first Tokyo fire bombing survivor I photographed.
I photographed her in an cemetery containing the unidentified bones of many who died when Tokyo was razed on March 10th, 1945. At the time of the firebombings Mrs. Hashimoto was 24 years old. Running with her younger sisters and her infant son scrapped onto her back, Mrs. Hashimoto was chased by the ravenous fires for hours. Her younger sister was engulfed by the inferno when she ran into a stampede of fleeing people. Finally at the end of a burning labyrinth, Mrs. Hashimoto was corned on a bridge. Her only option for survival was a desperate jump far below into the frigid Tatagawa River with her son still on her back. The high tide allowed them to be carried by a strong current towards floating wooden debris.
“As the changed face of my neighborhood passed me in a blur. I could hardly recognize it through my aching eyes. I couldn’t feel sadness or surprise. I just pulled along on that cart while clinging my boy to my chest.”
Her testimony about the surviving the destruction of Tokyo was brutal. The last time I saw Mrs. Hashimoto was walking in Asakusa in 2010. I will always remember her and I consider myself lucky that she shared her story with me. It was an honor to have known her.
August 21st, 2016
“It’s hard to put into words; it left a mark on our lives.”
Nora Lang (left) and Anita John (right) were close friends growing up. They lived down the street from each other in Dresden-Johannstadt. Nora was 13 1/2 and Anita was 12 years old when Dresden was destroyed during the infamous WWII air raid.
Nora was separated from her family during the chaos but luckily everyone survived. Anita’s family and neighbors took shelter in a cellar. Soldiers clearing debris on top of the collapsed cellar found Anita passed out sixteen hours after the raid. She lost her parents and was the only survivor in the cellar.
Mrs. Lang and Mrs. John are photographed in front of the damaged church, Trinitatiskirche. It is located a few streets from where they experienced the bombings. Mrs. Lang and Mrs. John were one of the few survivors I met who continued to live near to where they had lived at the time of the bombings. For Mrs. John, I believe in some respect it is a way for her to still be close to her parents.
August 7th, 2016
..September 2008 Nagasaki..
7AM walk before 2nd day of portraits
….500 feet above my head the 2nd atomic bomb detonated on August 9th, 1945. Blood, fire, black rain, and heat engulfed everywhere around me. For a split second the temperature at the epicenter reached 1 million degrees. 100 feet to my right corpses piled on the river creating a dam of death that stopped the flow of water. The Urakami Cathedral a 1/2 mile down the street collapsed and fell down a hillside. Part of the tower still sits at the bottom.
..2nd day in Nagasaki at the epicenter of the atomic bomb, I don’t think the entire story has ever been told or ever will be comprehended.
The reality hit me seeing the bell tower of the Urakami Cathedral at the bottom of the hill. It once towered on the top of the hill overlooking canal. Toppled like a home made of wooden blocks thrown across a room.
I took some rocks from the grounds of Urakami Church and wrote Love, Peace, Compassion. Took a bunch of rocks home with Japanese writing. An unlikely souvenir that I will always keep.