"Truly traumatic photographs are
rare, for photography the trauma is wholly dependent on
the certainty that the scene 'really' happened: the photographer
had to be there."
Roland Barthes, Image, Music,
Text, trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang,
Pictured is the Yorozuya Bridge in
Hiroshima. The proper noun alone, "Hiroshima," fills the image
with meaning. The photograph was taken shortly following the
detonation of the world's second atomic weapon; the first
used with lethal intent. What appear to be shadows are not.
The bridge literally has become a photographic record
of this catastrophic event. The thermal radiance of the atomic
blast permanently cast these shadows, "a memory of shadows
and stone" (Marguerite Duras, Hiroshima, mon amour,
trans. Richard Seaver; New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1961; 23).
More specifically the elongated "shadow"
at the bottom of the photograph is not some abstract impression
of an architectural feature, it is the figure of a human being
- vaporized. Gone in a single instant, erased from the face
of the planet. In the footage available at right, you will
see an American solider stepping into the place of the "shadow-man."
The bridge in Hiroshima, scarred
by the horrors of the Second World War, is a metonymic link
to the transgressive acts of the last century. The bridge
is a text, signifying the horror and the suffering of the catastrophic