By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
Growing up in Hiroshima, photographer Hiroki Kobayashi was 3 or 4 years old when the recurring nightmare began. Holding his father’s big hand by the pond. The sudden darkness. Big, gray clouds above them. A mushroom cloud?
His grandfather, orphaned already in the war, wouldn’t talk about the bomb that fell on their city 75 years ago yesterday. His grandfather’s cousin was killed in the atomic bombing.
For Nat Geo, Hiroki showed metal melted by the intense atomic-unleashed heat in Hiroshima, including this statue of Buddha (above left) and walls streaked by radioactive rain and ash (above right). Hiroki also wanted to portray Nagasaki, the second—and last—city wrecked by an atomic bomb, 75 years ago Sunday. (Below, a pocket watch that stopped at the moment of impact in Nagasaki). “I felt,” Hiroki told us, “that the this story would not be complete without telling both stories."
Below, Hiroki photographed two camphor trees that guard the entrance to Nakasaki’s Sanno Shinto Shrine. Heat and debris from the blast stripped the tree bare and split the trunks in two. Although considered dead at the time, the tree’s scorched branches produced new buds. Today the trees stand as living, natural monuments to the bombing.
Hiroki also wanted to show the resilience of survivors. Shoso Kawamoto (below) was orphaned at 11 when the Hiroshima bomb killed his parents. Like other hibakusha (bomb survivors), he suffered discrimination from other Japanese citizens and their unfounded fears. At 20 he fell in love with a woman, but her father forbade their marriage, saying that their children could be deformed from radiation. Now 86, Kawamoto never married, but he enjoys giving origami planes and cranes to youngsters who visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, where he volunteers. Pull the tail, he says, beaming, and see the wings flap. Printed on the planes’ wings are the words “Hope for Peace."
The governor of Hiroshima Prefecture wants the bombing sites (below, a small memorial in downtown Hiroshima) to be symbols both of technological horror and of the spirit of survivors. Either way, the memory endures, Hidehiko Yuzaki told Nat Geo. “You dig two feet,” he says, “and there are [still] bones.”
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Today in a minute
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Your Instagram of the day
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The big takeaway
What’s with that light? It began with a mistake. Photographer Reuben Wu was photographing one night in Death Valley when a pickup truck washed over his meticulous long-exposure image with its harsh headlights. Annoyed, Wu saw the image—and became fascinated. In the latest National Geographic, he talks about adding artificial light to places it doesn’t belong—lakes, canyons, tall rock pillars. Above, Wu illuminates rock formations near Arbol de Piedra, in Bolivia’s Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve.
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In a few words
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The last glimpse
A gentleman: W. Robert Moore traveled to China in 1931 to pick up the glass plates of Nat Geo’s Maynard Owen Williams that documented the audacious 8,000-mile Citroen-Haardt road expedition from Beirut to Beijing. While waiting for the shipment from Williams, Moore explored on his own with his large format photographic equipment. He spent significant time in Beijing, photographing one of the last Manchu funerals. That’s according to our senior photo archivist, Sara Manco, who selected this image. Says Manco: “I love the modern feel of this photo and how perfectly set the woman’s hair is.”
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