By 1957, photographer Ken Domon had reached the peak of his creative powers. A picture taken that year in Hiroshima, which he was visiting for the first time to chronicle the lingering effect of the bomb, shows him supremely confident: ram-rod straight on a stool, tripod in one hand, he casts a sideway glance at the viewer. His brow is lightly furrowed; his lips display a slight pout reminiscent of a kabuki actor adopting a mie pose. What we see is an intense, tenacious and uncompromising mind.
Two years later, Domon suffered the first of three brain hemorrhages that marked the beginning of a long, slow and painful decline. In an image from 1979, on a photo shoot near Nara, he is in a wheelchair, his shoulders slumped, his cheeks a bit hollow. We can still notice a glimmer of passion in his eyes, but his gaze is distant. Not long after that, he was back in the hospital, in the coma in which he remained until his death in 1990.