The American Museum of Science and Energy in Tennessee State opened the exhibition “Japan 1945: Images by U.S. Marine Photographer Joe O’Donnell” on Friday. The exhibition will be open until July 28.
By displaying 22 of O’Donnell’s original negatives, the exhibition provide a reflection of the human cost of war, the world’s entry into the nuclear age and the photographer’s hope that nuclear warfare would not be repeated, according to the international press.
In 1943, when he was 20, O’Donnell enlisted in the U.S. Marines Corps and was assigned as a photographer. In 1945, he received the order to photograph the consequences of the United States’ bombing raids on the Japanese cities struck by atomic bombs, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
O’Donnell took thousands of official photographs, but also hundreds of pictures with his own camera, which is also displayed in the exhibition. After the war, when he returned home, O’Donnell locked his own photographs in a trunk and did not look at them for the next 50 years, due to their powerful emotional effect.
“Not only do O’Donnell’s tragically beautiful photographs capture a hell on earth, they also embody his profound compassion and respect, making his haunting images precious not only as documentation but also as works of art,” writer Donna Seaman said in a recent review of O’Donnell’s work for Booklist magazine.