Colorized Photos of Hiroshima Show Daily Life Before the Atomic Bomb

On the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, a new photobook is being released by a university student and professor. What’s unique about the photographs is that they have been colorized and brought to life as if just taken the other day. Memories, imagination and technology worked hand-in-hand in the colorization process, which combined interviews with those seen in the pictures, people who remembered what was depicted in the pictures, and artificial intelligence. The team that worked on the book called the process “unfreezing memories.”

A pre and post-colorization of a photo taken on Aug. 9, 1936, 9 years before the atomic bomb exploded, on the grounds of Jisenji temple where the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park now stands. A girl wearing a dress has a big grin on her face. On a bench, a woman sleeps with her head on her arm.

The 355-page book of pictures were taken in Hiroshima and other cities during the period before, during and after World War II. The project was spearheaded by university student Anju Niwata, who was 18 when she first obtained the photo above of the little girl on the temple grounds. This set her on a path of colorizing photos through interviews, memories and even combing the internet to find clothing trends to identify color possibilities for clothing. She worked with professor Hidenori Watanabe of the University of Tokyo, who had led similar projects and was familiar with the AI-colorization process.

Black and white photos have a way of disconnecting us from the past, as if there’s was some wall of history between when photos were black and white and when they were color. Adding color makes that wall disappear. “I realized there was a normal life back then, no different from ours today,” says Niwata.

The book is available on Amazon JP for 1650 yen.

1 Comment

  1. As the daughter of a Hiroshima survivor and author, I am so happy to read about these photos. Thank you for posting this.

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