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Lot 348
The Bombing of Nagasaki
After Yosuke Yamahata: A collection of 24 photographs taken the day after the bombing
[Japan], 1945-46

US$ 25,000 - 35,000
£ 19,000 - 26,000

World War II

5 Jun 2014, 10:00 EDT

New York

The Bombing of Nagasaki
After Yosuke Yamahata: A collection of 24 photographs taken the day after the bombing
[Japan], 1945-46
A photographic album of circa 250 photographs assembled circa 1945-46, by an unknown American M.P. in Osaka, Japan, comprising:
1. 2 photographs of Eisenhower and MacArthur on Eisenhower's visit to Japan May 1946.
2. 3 photographs of Mount Fuji, 2 from the air.
3, A portrait of the MP who assembled the album, inscribed "Dec 1945, Osaka Japan."
4. 161 photographs of military activity around Osaka, showing the life of the MP, jeeps, boats and military buildings, most small contact prints.
5. 53 photographs of civilian life in the city, the streets and street sellers.
6. 6 photographs of the bomb damage inflicted on Osaka by Allied bombing raids.
7. Two series, each of 12 photographs at postcard size, after Yosuke Yamahata, contemporary (1945-46) prints taken from his photographs or negatives, the first series of 12 (annotated in he album as Hiroshima) includes some of his most famous images, the Arch, the woman and child standing, the woman and baby suckling, are certainly machine made prints probably copied from images in circulation. The second series of 12 are more interesting, although they are more inferior copies. They show the general destruction of the city, and life going on afterwards, but the images are over exposed and slightly dull, lacking clarity.
The photographs all mounted in a contemporary cloth covered album, most into inserts but some with tape, a few with image of the corners torn away, due to the adhesive tape. Binding worn and partially broken.

A rare discovery of these 24 contemporary Yamahata images of the Nagasaki destruction, 12 of them possibly taken from the original negatives taken by his second defective camera. Yamahata, a military photographer, was on assignment near Nagasaki when the bomb dropped, he rushed down (by train, it took 12 hours), to the city arriving at 3 a.m. on the day after the blast on August 10, 1945 accompanied by the correspondent Higashi and artist Yamada. He had been instructed to record the destruction for military propaganda purposes, and in the day took around 119 photographs, using two cameras, sometimes taking multiple shots with both cameras, so he could select the best picture when developed. At the time he did not know appear to know that his second camera had a faulty shutter device, and it was only when he developed the negatives that the problem was discovered. He worked from dawn to dusk, picking around the ruins in his own words, he said that it was hell on earth. Over the course of the day he recorded the gruesome aftermath of the world's newest weapon. These photographs were the only extensive record of the destruction, and on August 21st they appeared in Mainichi Shimbun.

After the surrender the American forces arrived and tight censorship ensued, and copies of his photographs were seized, although he hid the negatives. These machine made copies have a slightly smaller image area than the originals, and are certainly copied from a clandestine set of photographs. We know sets were certainly in circulation in the Japanese population, from 1945 onwards. It seems likely that the young MP who probably confiscated these clandestine photographs from a citizen in Osaka, and put them in his album, had no knowledge of their importance, but his chance encounter has preserved them for later generations. Of the 119 images that Yamahata took only 71 negatives survived, having come down through the family, and all are images of good quality. If the other missing 48 images were taken with the second camera were of poor quality as these ones it seems likely he would have disposed of them at some point.
In Yamahata's own words written much later, "Today, with the remarkable recovery made both by Nagasaki and Hiroshima, it may be difficult to recall the past, but these photographs will continue to provide us with an unwavering testimony to the realities of that time."

Yamahata also paid the price for his photography, and in 1965, at the young age of 48, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He is buried in Tama Cemetery in Tokyo.
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