Shomei Tomatsu-The most influential Japanese photographer of the postwar era


Evan S Connell fell in love with New Mexico, where he did his flight trainingShomei Tomatsu (1930-2012) was the face of postwar photography. His series Nagasaki and Scars can be seen in major museums across the world. Shomei Tomatsu, who has died aged 82, was  the most influential Japanese photographer of the postwar era. His raw, grainy and impressionistic style signalled a dramatic break with the quiet formalism that defined earlier Japanese photography, and it influenced many younger photographers, including his friend Daido Moriyama and the often controversial 
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Nobuyoshi Araki .Tomatsu was a self-taught photographer. Shomei Tomatsu documented the aftermath of his country’s nuclear tragedy. This master of black-and-white inspired photographers from Daido Moriyama and Yutaka Takanashi to Nobuyoshi Araki. He was a student at the University of Aichi in 1954 when his first photographs appeared in major Japanese magazines. He worked as a photographer for the publishing house Iawanami Shashin Bunko, where he met Nagano Shigeichi. In 1959, with Kiruji Kawada, Akira Sato, Akira Tanno, Ikko Narahara and Eikoh Hosoe, he founded the Japanese photo agency Photo Vivo. The same year, he began photographing the American bases scattered across the Japanese archipelago.

He received a commission for a book on the bomb that ended the war, a project he undertook with Domon Ken. In the 1960s, he documented the student protests in Japan along with the new bohemian movement forming in Shinjuku, Tokyo.Tomatsu’s major projects include photographing the U.S. occupation and subsequent Americanization of Japan; the “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Document,” in which he and Ken Domon photographed the aftermath of the atomic bomb; and pictures of both violence in the streets and the life styles of students in Shinjuku, Tokyo. “Tomatsu was a highly important mentor of younger Japanese photographers,” Brueggemann told me. “In my opinion, in the future, Tomatsu will be known not only as Japanese photographer but as one of the most important photographers of his time.”


“Bottle Melted and Deformed by Atomic Bomb Heat, Radiation, and Fire, Nagasaki” (1961)


“Prostitute” (1957)


“Untitled (Yokosuka),” from the series “Chewing Gum and Chocolate” (1959)


“Hibakusha Tsuyo Kataoka, Nagasaki” (1961)


“Coca-cola, Tokyo” (1969)


Shomei Tomatsu, Blood & Roses 2, Tokyo 1969




Shomei Tomatsu, Untitled, from the series Chewing Gum and Chocolate, Hokkaido, 1959




“Untitled (Yokosuka),” from the series “Chewing Gum and Chocolate” (1966)




“Untitled,” from the series “Protest, Tokyo” (1969)


“Untitled,” from the series “Protest, Tokyo” (1969)


 “Boy and the Sea,” Tokyo, 1969