Monday, August 17, 2009

Trash to Treasure

International Center of Photography: Hiroshima, 1945 Photographer Unknown

You never know what you might find in someone's trash. Not that many people dig through trash, but of course we shred our bills and endless credit card offerings before we dump them in the recycling bin on the off chance that someone will. But sometimes people DO leave really valuable stuff in their trash. Fortunately for us, there are other people pulling it back out. This story is fascinating on so many levels that I urge you to read it. I'm posting it here to make the point that you really never know what might just be set out on the curb someday.
One rainy night eight years ago, in Watertown, Massachusetts, a man was taking his dog for a walk. On the curb, in front of a neighbor’s house, he spotted a pile of trash: old mattresses, cardboard boxes, a few broken lamps. Amidst the garbage he caught sight of a battered suitcase. He bent down, turned the case on its side and popped the clasps.

He was surprised to discover that the suitcase was full of black-and-white photographs. He was even more astonished by their subject matter: devastated buildings, twisted girders, broken bridges — snapshots from an annihilated city. He quickly closed the case and made his way back home.
Of course, due to the nature of what this man found, the story is much more complex and compelling. He didn't just find a groovy old chair amidst the household detritus. He found pieces of a gaping hole in our collective past. Fascinating. Gut-wrenching. Bizarrely hopeful? Maybe it will be images like these that convince us (and people after us) that we might ought to try a little harder at all getting along. Probably not, but I like to kid myself.

Read the rest of the article in the Design Observer. See more of the images here.
International Center of Photography: Hiroshima, 1945 Photographer Unknown

I was so curious after reading the article that I poked around a little on the web for some context. These found images were all taken after the bombing. As I was looking through them, I realized I had never seen any images of the city before the bombing. There are some good ones on the web that make these found images even more powerful. Hiroshima was a very modern looking city with a surprisingly western feel. I don't know what I had expected, but I didn't expect something that looked like 1945 Chicago. Here is a before and after that illustrates the devastation as well as any: Thoughts of treasure are far from your mind while looking at these images, but they are invaluable. Not that any of us would have known, but how awful to have lost them for all time to a municipal trash incinerator.

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