Design Observer on Hiroshima, Photography and Censorship

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Hiroshima, photographer unknown, 1945, via International Center of Photography


Earlier this month The Design Observer Group commemorated the 64th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima by republishing the following essay by Adam Harrison Levy along with a new collection of photographs of the city following its obliteration by atomic bomb. The photographs are from a collection of 700 images by an unknown photographer that were literally found in the trash in the late ’90s by some guy out walking his dog in the rain. What’s particularly interesting about these images is the U.S.’ suppression of such documentation:

Thirty-one days after the blast, a team of U.S. scientists flew over the city. “There was just one enormous, flat, rust-red scar, and no green or grey” Philip Morrison told The New Yorker in 1946, “because there were no roofs or vegetation left. I was pretty sure then that nothing I was going to see later would give me as much of a jolt.”

The world has very few photographs of what gave Morrison that unforgettable jolt. This is no accident. On September 18, 1945, just over a month after Japan had surrendered, the U.S. Government imposed a strict code of censorship on the newly defeated nation. It read, in part: “nothing shall be printed which might, directly or by inference, disturb public tranquility.”

The U.S. government was ostensibly wary of the emotions of grief and anger that could be unleashed in Japan as a result of the circulation of images of the destroyed city; it was probably just as concerned to keep the physical effects of its new and terrible weapon a secret. But this suppression of visual evidence served a third purpose: it helped, both in Japan and back home in America, to inhibit any questioning of the decision to use the bomb in the first place.

Find the whole essay, along with a slideshow of these photos at The Design Observer Group. (via Conscientious)

Today's Autonomedia Jubilee Saint — JACOB RIIS

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May 26 — JACOB RIIS
Compassionate photographer, champion of the poor.
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Riis’ Sleeping Children

MAY 26, 2009 HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
*Feast of VooDoo Economics.

ALSO ON MAY 26 IN HISTORY…
1799 — Black Russian poet Alexander S. Pushkin born.
1895 — Socially-aware photographer Dorothea Lange born, Hoboken, New Jersey.
1914 — Social realist photographer Jacob Riis dies, Barre, Massachusetts.
1976 — Nazi sympathizer and philosopher Martin Heidegger dies.
1977 — George Willig climbs World Trade Center, New York City.

Excerpted from The 2009 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints: Radical Heroes for the New Millennium by James Koehnline and the Autonomedia Collective

May 10th – Book Launch for Michael Schmelling's "The Plan" at FAMILY in Los Angeles, CA

All over New York City, often hidden in tiny rent-controlled apartments that have survived many waves of gentrification in their surrounding neighborhoods, there are slightly delusional (and perhaps even secretly brilliant) artists, writers, and recluses of all kinds who to this day are continuing to hoard their precious manuscripts, newspapers, records, memorabilia, and artwork that nobody’s ever seen.

Only a privileged few gain access to these dwellings, which are in themselves mini-worlds; each of these apartments is like a museum, devoted exclusively to the compulsive collecting habits of its owner. It’s no shock that there is a New York-based company, Disaster Masters, that finds these compulsive hoarders, counsels them and helps them to clean up their apartments (Sidenote: did you know that in Japan there are similar companies that try to coax teenage boys into leaving their rooms? Read about it here.)

Between 2003 and 2005, photographer Michael Schmelling accompanied Disaster Masters to 12 different apartments, making it his prerogative to document each apartment pre-cleanup, while it was still in its most natural, chaotic state. The result is The Plan, a 576-page book, featuring 490 black and white photographs, with an entire chapter dedicated to each home.

Thanks to Schmelling, these remnants of New York history are now preserved for us all to see. Come take a look at what he’s captured at Family’s book launch for The Plan, where Schmelling will discuss his work, accompanied by a slide show, question-and-answer session, and book signing at the end.

Sunday, May 10th, 7:30pm
FAMILY
436 N. Fairfax Ave. / Los Angeles, CA 90036
Free admission

For more info, visit http://www.familylosangeles.com/

DAILY MAGPIE – Feb. 5 – Mark Ruwedel, Westward the Course of Empire

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Opening reception, Thursday Feb 5th, 6:00-8:00pm, free

Mark Ruwedel’s new exhibition Onward the Course of Empire opens Thursday at the Yossi Milo Gallery, 525 W. 25th St in New York City.  Ruwedel photographs abandoned 19th and 20th century railway lines in The United States and Canada.  Ruwedel’s gelatin silver prints bear witness to the grown-over traces of North America’s railway past.

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