Ken Domon, the Award-Winning Photographer Who Captured Life After War on Film

  • Ken Domon was a renowned 20th-century Japanese photographer who drew attention from the world with his images of the Hiroshima bombing aftermath. He independently documented the ordinary life of people which made him a prolific contributor to Japanese magazines. He is also considered to be the pioneer of realism due to his meticulous way of capturing portraits.

    His Life

    Ken was a native of Yamagata Prefecture. As a young man, he studied law and was deeply influenced by the philosophical writings of Tetsuro Watsuji, a Japanese moral philosopher and historian. His involvement in radical politics resulted in his being expelled from school yet gave him a chance to focus on portrait photography.

    He started working for Japanese magazines such as Nippon and Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai. Most of his works centered around political struggles and war. He also captured images of Buddhist temples and statues as well as artistic figures. He was often described as a sensitive person who loved people, especially children.

    His Work and Style

    The powerful images Ken took in 10 years after World War II have contributed so much in documenting both traditional culture and the modern lives of people in Japan. He was able to capture the real situation of the atomic bomb survivors which caused him to weep while doing his photography. As he believed in connecting the camera with reality, he disliked posed photos. Yet, he was able to show Japan to the world through the Japanese eye. Many of his photographs were propaganda style shots including the different range emotions of the people he photographed. He was very much energetic in traveling the country and taking photographs of different scenes of everyday life in Japan.

    Even after his death in 1990, some of his works are still exhibited internationally. Many of his images are actually found in Rome where they are symbolically being preserved.

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