Last week I did a post about the Conflict:Time:Photography exhibition at the Tate Modern, and the way it brings the past into focus by showing the elapse of time from a key event, like the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Now here I am again with another photography exhibition about the dropping of the atomic bomb, but one with an approach that couldn’t be more different. The clue is in the exhibition title – Remembering Absence.
Kirk Palmer’s exhibition at the Daiwa Foundation shows us present-day Nagasaki. But that’s not the point; Palmer wants us to look at what isn‘t there, not what is. Or, more precisely, what isn‘t there any more. There are two series. The first, A Surrounding Trace, shows one of the few areas around Nagasaki which was not affected by the dropping of the atomic bomb and where there has been no postwar redevelopment.
The ridge of low mountains remains just as it always was, and just as it was when onlookers stood there and witnessed the effects of the bomb on that fateful day in 1945. The photos were taken with a pinhole camera, making the landscape appear indistinct, fragile and impressionistic.
The second series, Precious Fragments, focuses on the Catholic community of Urakami in a valley north of Nagasaki which was completely obliterated by the atomic blast. Palmer’s aim is to evoke rather than describe the place that used to be there by photographing the landscape left behind and the rebuilt cathedral.
The photos are tiny, blurry and ambiguous, leaving it to the viewer to use their imagination to empathise with the past.
In a separate room three of Palmer’s films are showing. The one I caught was War’s End: An Island of Remembrance, which follows the course of a morning on the island of Yakushima in the Ryukyu Archipelago.
Yakushima is a World Heritage site, unchanged for millennia. Scenes of its peaceful natural phenomena play out against a soundtrack of the bell of the Urakami cathedral, silenced forever when the bomb dropped.
In another link with the Tate exhibition, Palmer’s film Hiroshima will be shown in the Tate Modern Starr Auditorium on 13th February. or you can catch it, along with a third film, Murmur, at the Daiwa.
The exhibition continues until 26th February. The Daiwa Foundation is open weekdays 9:30 am to 5 pm.