One of Japan’s most distinguished photographers, Shomei Tomatsu, died of complications from pneumonia at a hospital in Naha, Okinawa, on Dec 14, 2012, it has been revealed. He was 82 years old.
Known for investigating the landscape of postwar Japan, from the aftereffects of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to the socio-cultural impact of US military bases in Okinawa, Tomatsu was born in 1930 in Nagoya. After joining the production staff of Iwanami Shashin Bunko in 1954, he began his freelance career in 1956, and formed with Eikoh Hosoe, Ikko Narahara and others the photographic cooperative Vivo in 1959. Entering the 1960s, he introduced a new approach to documentary photography through series like “Occupied Japan” and “Houses,” and began to publish the first of numerous photo books, beginning with Nagasaki 11:02 (1961). In 1972 he spent a year in Naha and an additional seven months in Miyakojima, both in Okinawa Prefecture. Along with those shot in Southeast Asia, the photographs from this period were collected in the book The Pencil of the Sun, published in 1975.
In the 1990s and 2000s Tomatsu had solo exhibitions at institutions including the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum, Nagoya Museum of Art and the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. Additionally, a survey organized in 2006 by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art received wide acclaim in the United States.