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hiroshima titleIn 1970 writer Betty Jean Lifton published her book Return to Hiroshima.

The book, ( 7.5 ” x 10 1/4 ” ) with a photo dust jacket, has a cloth binding, blind stamped with the title and printed in Japan. It is bound by well known binders and book producers H. Wolff in New York City with the design done by Harriett Barton. The photographs are by the Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe.

Hosoe born in 1933 is a well known photographer especially in Japan, he is also a film maker and the director of the Kiyosato Museum of Photographic Arts since 1995. Hosoe has had a very distinguished career over the years and Aperture Publishers devoted a monograph to him in 2009.

Betty Jean Lifton learned about the drama of Hiroshima first hand while she lived in Japan with her husband who studied the psychological effects of the dropping of the A-Bomb on survivors. She made a movie “A Thousand Cranes” about the young people of that city. Years later she would  write another book on Hiroshima.

This forgotten photo book belongs to the documentary side of photography, and in my opinion is a seminal publication. It describes the disaster of the years that followed the dropping of the bomb and portrays it in a simple human dignified manner the anguish, and sorrow but also the (ab)normality of the old and the new generation with a compassionate view. She is assisted in this effort by the stark black and white images of Hosoe who was used to taking pictures demonstrating the Budokan (fighting or warriorSpirit of the Japanese cult figure, Yokio Mishima. This humble but difficult task in photographing the dignity of the victims of Hiroshima compassionately is a tribute to his career.

Certainly it was not an easy task for an American and a woman as well to do this book, working in a culture which until recently valued the female less than the male.

It is most likely also a “first” in the collaboration of an American and a Japanese national  in addressing this emotional matter and translating it in a “view” not  condemning nor providing reason, but aspiring to instill a higher value while at the same time making a definite anti-war statement much in the 1970’s spirit. This is a book in the “Capa spirit” in 90 stark pages, in a non commercial way attempting to bring the sober results of the start of Modern warfare to our very eyes. A lesson for many to learn.

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