(34) Photography and History



"Photography and history." Yoji lifted his head, eyes fixed on Mr. Bento, "Since the invention of photography, any civilized cities or countries must have a photo archive of their own. In Japan, The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum unfortunately ranks close to the top among war museums. Yosuke Yamahata, the Japanese photographer took pictures of Nagasaki immediately the day after the atomic bombing. Those pictures were published two weeks later in Mainichi Shimbun. But when the American forces arrived, the images were withdrawn from the public eye. More photos were found five years ago at the US National Archives, showing pictures taken a year after the bomb was dropped. They were taken by one of the American researchers who visited Nagasaki to investigate the damage caused by the bomb. Among the twenty some photographs exhibited at the Atomic Bomb Museum, one showed an arrow-shaped monument standing in the middle of a field, bearing the inscription 'Atomic Bomb Ground Zero' in Japanese. It stood 5 meters tall. It is now the site of the Memorial Hall."

“War museums eh? You know there are Holocaust museums all over the world, even one in Hong Kong! And oh, I remember a few years back, when Ginger and I traveled to Berlin, we went to an outdoor memorial - they call it the Holocaust Memorial. There are more than two thousand grey concrete slabs in the open space, wasn’t that haunting and depressing as it should be. A wonderful sunny day, we even took a silhouette portrait of ourselves, I mean the three of us - Ginger, me and Cigar. Let’s see if I can still find it.” Mrs. Bento looked down and scrolled through the forest of pictures in her smart phone, where she stored virtually all the images she had taken over the last five years.

“Before we wander off too far, I have to remind every one the reason for compiling the photo museum list. We want to study the kind of photography museums put in their collections, that way we could discuss and develop criteria for what HOSOP would collect." George went on, “I know there are many compelling stories when going through the list, and it's hard to avoid the danger of distraction. Before going on further, let us digest what we have on hand and voice out our opinions.”

“Since we all get this list for the first time, we need to do some homework. Should we get prepared to bring this topic up again in our next meeting? Any objections? Okay, done!” Mr. Bento pounded on the table with his fist as if he was nailing down a bid with hammer in an auction. He gave a quick glance at the street outside, and continued with a softer tone, “Meanwhile, it is still early, and I’d like to share some discussions of photographs we accidental found in an audio disc, on our third floor library. We have listened to it once, and think it could perhaps inspire and help us look at photographs in other perspectives.” Without waiting for consent from the team, Mr. Bento got up and walked over to the CD player, turned on the power and inserted a disc. Just when he was about to press the play button Mrs. Bento cried out aloud, “I smell something burning!” Both Bentos rushed into the kitchen. The smell was robustly strong, the tea pot sat quietly on the seemingly peaceful glass cooktop. In no time Mrs. Bento shouted again, “Don’t touch it, use the oven mitt!”