Kirk Palmer – Remembering absence

Kirk Palmer Remembering AbsenceLast 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.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

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.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

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.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

The photos are tiny, blurry and ambiguous, leaving it to the viewer to use their imagination to empathise with the past.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

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.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

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.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

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.

Kirk Palmer Remembering Absence

8 thoughts on “Kirk Palmer – Remembering absence

  1. I think capturing these images with a pinhole camera adds another layer to the poignant feeling of a moment in time that has authentically recorded an absence. Looks like an interesting, thought-provoking show.


  2. The pinhole camera makes the photos seem very ethereal. Interesting capture of emotion on this series – in some ways the Hiroshima/Nagasaki experience does seem unreal to me because it happened way before I was born and the calculated decision to wipe out so many people would have had more media consequences today. Not sure the US government could have done the same thing today without much more discussion.


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