Daughter of American photographer visits Hiroshima with father’s photos of the bomb’s aftermath

by Miho Kuwajima, Staff Writer

The photo shows a woman retrieving the remains of family members lost to the atomic bombing as an American soldier looks on with a camera dangling from his neck. The soldier, Herbert Sussan (1922-1985), was a photographer and filmmaker for the U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey and he filmed Hiroshima during the spring of 1946.

Reflecting later on his experience in Hiroshima, Mr. Sussan once said: "It was so moving to watch the families picking up the remains of their loved ones in little boxes. I’ll never forget those boxes, no more than 5 or 6 inches square. Each box contained all that was left of a human being. I considered it very important to film that because it would give a sense of the people who had been destroyed which there was no other way to obtain on film."

Leslie Sussan recently visited Hiroshima bearing 210 photos that her father took back then and shared memories of her late father. She said that her father did not show the photos of the devastated city to anyone, even to the members of his own family.

Mr. Sussan left the U.S. military in 1947, one year after taking photos and shooting film of Hiroshima, alleging that his images were being utilized as reference material for a future war. He then became a television producer in New York. When Leslie was a junior high school student, she learned about the photos of Hiroshima and Nagasaki hidden in a closet and tried to take them out. But her father became furious and forbid her from doing so, saying, “They’re horrific photos and I don’t want you to touch them.” Leslie recalled, “Father was always fearful of the horror of the atomic bombing and the pressure he felt from the U.S. government.”

As a university student, Leslie was actively involved in protests against the Vietnam War. After graduation, she became a lawyer, hoping to help change society, which she feels treats the poor unjustly. Three years ago she assumed the role of administrative judge.

Leslie believes her father had an important influence on her commitment to pacifism. She has been writing a book based on the notes her father left and testimonies by atomic bomb survivors who appeared in her father’s photos and film. With her own daughter away from home, attending Columbia University, Leslie is working on her final preparations of the book for publication.

(Originally published on July 18, 2009)

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Daughter of U.S. photographer provides Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum with 210 A-bomb photographs (July 13, 2009)