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Hiroshima: Centre of an Atomic Blast – in photographs

JAPAN. Hiroshima. September 8, 1945. Center of atomic bomb blast. Japanese soldier walks through site where army barracks once stood in the center of town © Wayne Miller/Magnum Photos

It's more than seventy years since the United States deployed two atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, May 27 President Barack Obama will become the first sitting American President to visit Japan's Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

The United States remains the only country to have used atomic weapons outside of testing conditions.

At least 140,000 people died in Hiroshima, the vast majority within minutes of the bomb detonating. Another 74,000 died three days later in a second bombing in Nagasaki.

“Death fell from the sky and the world was changed,” Mr Obama said in a historic address at the city’s Peace Memorial Park. The bombing had shown that “mankind possessed the means to destroy itself,” he said.

Mr Obama said the memory of Hiroshima must never fade: “It allows us to fight complacencies, fuels our moral imagination and allows us to change.”

As Obama visits the city, Magnum photo agency have collated the photographers whom have documented how the city’s people have lived on in the years since those fateful days in August 1945, chronicling the bombing’s aftermath, recovery, and remembrance.

Maybe the most significant of those photographers was the late American photojournalist Wayne Miller.

In September 1945, only one month after the bombing of Hiroshima, Miller photographed the blast site, the survivors, and the city.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1918, Miller began his photographic career during World War II when he was selected to join an elite naval combat photographic unit.

During his service, Miller created one of the iconic and historic images of the Second World War – a wounded pilot being pulled from his fighter plane. By coincidence, Miller had been scheduled for the flight – the photographer who had taken his place was shot and killed while documenting the firefight.

Miller was also one of the first photographers to arrive at Hiroshima to document the devastation left by the atomic blast, just days after Japan surrendered in September 1945.

It was one of the defining days of his photography career, and impacted on his emotional wellbeing throughout his life

“Miller throughout his life kept a piece of the rubble, a Japanese teacup into which glass had melted, at the doorway to his darkroom as a memorial,” his family revealed in a statement when the photographer died, at the age of 94, in 2013.

His pictures triangulated with brutal effect ghostly portraits of traumatised survivors of the bomb with the city’s ruined architecture, it’s flattened, newly desolate landscapes.

After such an experience, Miller talked of photography as a medium capable of inspiring pacifism in the face of potential violence.

“We didn’t know the people we were fighting. They didn’t know us,” he once said. “Maybe if we knew each other better, the war would be a different kind of a war, there would be less carnage.

“I thought that after the war, if I could get involved in some kind of a project that was related to that thinking, it would be my way as a photographer of participating in maybe slowing down the next war.”

Miller’s photography of Hiroshima, as well as that of other Magnum photographers, can be seen here.