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ESSAYS

Breathing the Same Air

BY WEI-LING WOO

The photography of Shomei Tomatsu (1930-2012)

SHOMEI TOMATSU, Hibakusha Tsuyo Kataoka, Nagasaki, 1961, gelatin silver print, 20.8 x 30.4 cm. Copyright the artist. Courtesy Galerie Priska Pasquer, Cologne.


At the age of 15, during an allied fire-bombing raid, the Japanese photographer who once called his eyes “infamously greedy” lay in bed listening to the roar of B-29 bombers overhead, tilting his mirror to catch the planes’ passing reflections and morbidly admiring “the pageant of light.” At the end of the war, Shomei Tomatsu felt a

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