Miyako Ishiuchi


ひろしま/HIROSHIMA 2011

These are objects irradiated by the great fireball that appeared suddenly one summer morning, and personal effects left behind by those who perished because of it. I catch my breath at their vivid hues and textures, surfacing from the long shadows cast by their extreme circumstance. They seem much too ordinary, the very stuff of daily life, to belong to an Atomic archive.

They are also too subtle to serve as anti-war, pro-peace icons―but I found Hiroshima in the gentle, everyday textures surviving in the silhouette of a one-piece dress, worn, perhaps clandestinely, by an unknown woman, and in the deep folds of a gathered skirt, in a fabric woven of silken threads. To salvage such memories, new personal effects are added to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum archives every year. Whatever the reason for their donation, in that moment private possessions become public.

It is nearly three years since I began photographing newly donated personal effects once a year, as my own project. This year, too, I returned to Hiroshima. But something had changed. The Great Earthquake and the nuclear power-plant disaster had intervened: it was Japan’s third major exposure to irradiation following Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The personal effects, still all too real after 66 years, attest yet again to their scars from humankind’s profound trauma. The objects can never belong to the past. They remain in the place used as an experiment in war and science. I focus my lens, and try to capture in photographs the time I share with them now.


The title ひろしま of this series means Hiroshima written in Japanese Hiragana characters. Hiragana is one basic component of the Japanese writing system, along with Katakana and Kanji. The Hiragana characters were extensively used by women in former times. For example, the classic Japanese novel The Tale of Genji and other early novels written by female authors used Hiragana characters.

Using this way of Japanese writings for the title means to the artist that this series is made by the point of view and feelings of a woman.


MIYAKO ISHIUCHI was born in Gunma Prefecture and raised in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. Ishiuchi’s early photo trilogy, Yokosuka Story, Apartment and Endless Night, deal explore the city through signs and memory. In a later series titled created when Ishiuchi was 40, she depicted the hands and feet of women of the same age. After finishing the series, she continued to photograph scars on women’s bodies.

Ishiuchi was awarded the 4th Kimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award in 1979, the 15th Domestic Photographer Award (part of the Higashikawa Prize) in 1999, and the 11th Shashin-no-kai Award and the Photographic Society of Japan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2005, she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale, where she showed her work “Mother’s – traces of the future.” In 2008, Ishiuchi published a photo book titled hiroshima and showed the same in the ひろしま/hiroshima: strings of time exhibition at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2009, She also received the 50th Mainichi Art Award and was invited to participate in the Third ICP Triennial at the International Center of Photography in New York.

Ishiuchi will have a solo exhibition titled “SILKEN DREAMS” which consist of her new works at Marugame Genichiro-Inokuma Museum of Contemporary Art from 7th of  October in 2012.