Yoshito Matsushige is the only person to capture an immediate, first-hand photographic historical account of the destruction of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Matsushige was 32 years old at the time of the atomic bombing. He was home at the time of the atomic bombing.
His home was located at Midori-cho, 1.7 miles from ground zero (hypocenter) of the explosion. This was just outside of the 1.5 mile radius of total destruction created by the atomic blast effects. Miraculously, Matsushige was not seriously injured by the explosion and was given one of the most famous photographic opportunities in human history.
With one camera and two rolls of film (24 possible exposures) he tried to get his newspaper office but flames blocked his way.Matsushige returned to the Miyuki Bridge. He tried to take photographs of the terrible carnage he witnessed at the bridge but could not press the shutter button. After struggling at that location for over thirty minutes, he finally took his first photographs.
During the next ten hours Matsushige was only able to click the shutter seven times because the sights were so atrocious and heart-breaking to witness. In addition, he was afraid the burned and battered people would be enraged if someone took their pictures. Matsushige could not develop the film right away but eventually did so after twenty days, in the open, at night, using a radioactive stream to rinse the photographs. Only five of the seven photographs were developable.
A few weeks after the atomic bombing, the American military confiscated all of the post-bombing newspaper photographs and/or newsreel footage but failed to confiscate many of the negatives. As a result, photographs from the Hiroshima atomic bombing were not published until the United States occupation of Japan ended in April 1952.
The magazine Asahi Gurafu initially published Matsushige’s photographs in a special edition on August 6, 1952. This edition was titled: “First Exposè of A-Bomb Damage”. This special edition sold out so quickly that four additional printings were run replacing the original color cover with a black and white one. The total circulation of this special edition was approximately 700,000. The following month, Life Magazine published two of the five Matsushige’s photographs in the September 29, 1952 edition of the magazine in an article titled: “When Atom Bomb Struck – Uncensored”.
Matsushige's photos can be see HERE.
His accounting of that day is HERE.
Portrait of Yoshito Matsushige: