Shomei Tomatsu, an internationally renowned photographer famous for his shots of atomic-bomb survivors in Nagasaki and postwar scenes in U.S. occupied Okinawa, died Dec. 14 of pneumonia at a hospital in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, his family said Monday. He was 82.
Tomatsu, born Teruaki, began taking pictures as a boy. After graduating from Aichi University, he worked for Tokyo-based Iwanami Shoten Publishers as a photographer before going freelance. In 1959, he formed a photographers’ group named Vivo with Eiko Hosoe and Ikko Narahara.
Tomatsu drew attention for his work on Nagasaki A-bomb survivors in a 1961 book in which he collaborated with photographer Ken Domon, who also became known for his coverage of Hiroshima A-bomb survivors.
Tomatsu’s subjects included U.S. military bases in Okinawa and other locales, chronicling the postwar history of Japan. He was also known for his unique aesthetic expressions, working on a wide range of subjects, including elements of the natural and cultural beauty of Japan.
He traveled to Okinawa before the prefecture’s reversion to Japanese control in 1972, capturing traditional culture in the region while photographing people living under occupation.
Tomatsu moved to Nagasaki in the late 1990s and continued to photograph A-bomb survivors he had become friends with.
Between 2000 and 2007, Tomatsu held the “Mandala” series of exhibitions reviewing his own works at museums in various parts of the nation that were the subjects of his photographs. He relocated to Okinawa two years ago.
Tomatsu was a strong influence on the next generation of photographers, including Takuma Nakahira and Daido Moriyama, said Ryuichi Kaneko, an expert on the history of photography.
Tomatsu’s major works include “Nagasaki 11:02, August 9, 1945,” and “Taiyo no Enpitsu” (“The Pencil of the Sun”). He was decorated by the government with the Medal with Purple Ribbon, an honor given to a citizen for extraordinary achievements in art, culture and science, in 1995.
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