Maison européenne de la photographie | Mémoire et lumière

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Location Maison européenne de la photographie, 5/7 rue de Fourcy 75004 Paris

Opening hours 11:00 – 19:45 from Wednesday to Sunday from 28 June 2017 to 27 August 2017

General curator Jean-Luc Monterosso

Curator Pascal Hoël

Collaboration Frédérique Dolivet, Diane Kitzis

Support Ambassade du Japon en France

Media partnership A Nous Paris, Connaissance des Arts, UGC

Among all exhibitions I have ever visited, this is one of the hardest to take. Japan, after World War II.

It has just rained, and there were not many people. It was mostly quiet. The exhibition is divided into five parts, showing photos taken by Japanese photographers after the War. Not all photos were taken in Japan; some were in the US, Hong Kong, and the UK, but they didn’t hit me that much. I mean, of course they are very good works, and they preserve a certain period of history so that we can learn about that time today, but during the whole visit, for me, these photos of joyful scenes outside Japan were more like a break from the sight of the aftermath of the explosion.

There are pictures of items, ruins, animals, and people. The clothes were burnt, the bottles were melted, the food was carbonised. The houses were turned into pieces, the parks were covered in ashes. Beings were hurt, killed, or left alive with pain and scars. It’s sad, but I couldn’t even shed a tear. When reading the sentences that victims have written, images appeared in my mind, and it was terrible. Some people smiled, some cried, screamed, some just stared at the camera, their eyes blank. The effect of what happened to them erased all emotions. The atomic bombs finally made the victory of the War, but what did it really bring? Whose victory was it? And who took the suffering of the losers?

This is the absurd side of war. When I was in Bordeaux this summer, I remember meeting a guy who apologised for thinking that I was Japanese. He thought that it was offensive to me, since I later told him I was Chinese. I’m not blaming him; a lot of people in China thinks the same. I’m just saying that the past is the past, and there is no reason hating a nation just because so many years ago, when many of us were not even born, some of them became devils. Most people don’t want war, but when the fighting starts, you can’t sit aside and go, ‘I’m not in, because I don’t like it.’ It’s not up to you.

So in the end, those who don’t want to fight are sent to kill, but they don’t necessarily enjoy the victory.

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