text by Paule Saviano

From Above is a portrait project I began photographing during September 2008 in Nagasaki, Japan.   The original idea was to meet and photograph Hibakusha, atomic bomb Survivors.  

A year before, I wrote letters to Hibakusha organizations about my idea.   In July 2008, Ms. Ranko Matsuo of the Nagasaki Peace Wing answered my inquiry and the project was born.  

During my first trip to Nagasaki I met and photographed 11 Hibakusha.   When I returned to Tokyo an opportunity was presented to photograph Survivors of the Tokyo fire bombings that occurred on March 10 th , 1945.   In October 2009, I photographed 6 Survivors still living in the Tokyo area.  

These 17 portraits from Nagasaki and Tokyo were exhibited at Gallery EF in Asakusa, Tokyo during March 2009.   Gallery EF provided the perfect home for the exhibition.   It was one of a handful of buildings to survive the fire bombings during WW II.  

The exhibition at Gallery EF was a proud achievement not only because of the amount of attention it produced.   It was also a time the Tokyo fire bombings Survivors could gather together and see each others photographs.  

In June/July 2010, the project was presented at the Nagasaki Peace Museum.   It was the first time the project found a home in Nagasaki.   The exhibition was an opportunity to welcome the Hibakusha I photographed.  

The warm welcome in Nagasaki allowed me to continue the project.   I met and photographed 8 more Hibakusha in Nagasaki and 2 Hibakusha living in Tokyo who survived the Hiroshima bombing.    

The exhibition was also memorable because of the connection made between the Hibakusha and the Tokyo fire bombing Survivors.   Ms. Nihei and Ms. Funato, survivors I photographed in Tokyo, made the journey.   Ms. Nihei was able to share her story of survival with Mr. Tsunenari, an Hibakusha.   Seeing the communication between the two strengthened by conviction about the project.  

I started photographing this project because I wanted to learn.   I wanted to hear from people who experienced what happened and how one can overcome a horrific tragedy.  

I'm covering war from the human side, not promoting sensationalism or politics.  I approached the portraits as photographing the human spirit. The photographs display the dignity and perseverance of each Survivor.   Their stories of enduring a tragic experience will demonstrate the human spirit can prevail. 

I've learned the suffering of war isn't temporary.  It is an experience humans have to deal with throughout life.   65 years after WW II, Survivors are still demonstrating there isn't a correct or wrong way to deal with a tragic experience.  There are many paths the human spirit can overcome tragedy

The spirit of my photographs is people and emotions.   In the history books there isn't a human face put on this event.   Human emotion always lacked in the history books for me.    

Not much is spoken about the civilian side of war.   There is minimal conversation about what happened to civilians after the bombings.   I believe it's important not to forget their experiences.  As time passes, these stories fade away and become lost.  That would be a shame.  Taking portraits of Survivors is one way to preserve the stories for future generations.  I believe it's important to put a face on history .    

The project continues to expand.   In May 2010, I had an opportunity to photograph fire bombing Survivors from Dresden, Germany.   My prior experiences combined with this opportunity demonstrated that communicating through photographs can transcend language or cultural differences.  

The portraits of the Dresden survivors will be presented simultaneously in Dresden and at Gallery EF in Tokyo on February 13th, 2011, the commemoration of the Dresden fire bombings.   It will than be presented in Chemnitz, Germany during March.  

From Above is an on going project.   I continue to photograph rapidly because time is growing short.   Each day survivors grow more fragile and their stories go silent as they pass away.  

I would like to exhibit the project in other Japanese cities and throughout the world.    Being able to show these photos anywhere in the world helps make people aware of how dangerous war is.  

This is a project without monetary sponsorship.   It is only made possible because of the great generosity from the people who have helped me through the years.   Without each person's support, what you see today would only have been an idea.   It is a project with limited resources but with a Big Heart.   A big thank you to everyone who has made this possible and to everyone who took time to give these photographs some thought.  


exhibition & event archive 2009-2012

SOUNDS FROM ABOVE in Hiroshima (17 June 2012)

music | Koto, Kimie Sakaki
talk | Erika Abiko (Project NOW!)


FROM ABOVE in Hiroshima (15 - 17 June 2012)

produced by Koto
co-hosted by Project NOW!
supported by Gallery ef


FROM ABOVE in Kyoto (13 Sep. - 13 Oct. 2011)
@ Museum for World Peace, Ritsumeikan University

produced by FROM ABOVE in Kyoto Planning Committee, Gallery ef
co-hosted by Museum for World Peace, Ritsumeikan University


STORIES FROM ABOVE (5 Aug. 2011) @ Cafe Cheers

performance | Koto, Shoko Fujii


FROM ABOVE in Hiroshima (3 - 31 Aug. 2011) @ Cafe Cheers

produced by Koto
supported by Yokogawa Shopping District Promotion Association, FROM ABOVE in Hiroshima Planning Committee, Gallery ef


SUMMER LIBRARY (3 - 31 Aug. 2011) @ Gallery ef


photo book "FROM ABOVE" published (31 Jul. 2011)

text & photo | Paule Saviano
edit | Tomoko Nagai, Izumi (Gallery ef), FROM ABOVE PROJECT
book design | Kazuhisa Yamamoto [Donny Grafiks]
creative management | Eiichiro Ichikawa [PHIL]
publisher | Contents Factory Co., Ltd.
print | Dainippon Printing Co., Ltd.


VOICES FROM ABOVE: vol.3 BIKINI (27 Feb. 2011)
@ Gallery ef

testimonial | Matashichi Oishi
music | Koji Shimakawa


picture-story show "Carnival of Light" (27 Feb. 2011)
@ Gallery ef



VOICES FROM ABOVE: vol.2 TOKYO (13 Feb. 2011)
@ Gallery ef

testimonial | Haruyo Nihei
music | Koji Shimakawa


FROM ABOVE: DRESDEN / TOKYO (10 - 28 Feb. 2011)
@ Ortsamt Blasewitz (Dresden)

produced by Paule Saviano
supported by City Dresden


FROM ABOVE: DRESDEN / TOKYO (4 - 27 Feb. 2011)
@ Gallery ef

produced by Gallery ef


VOICES FROM ABOVE: vol.1 HIROSHIMA (2 & 3 Oct. 2010)
@ Gallery ef, Tokyo

testimonial | Hisayo Yamashita
music | Koji Shimakawa


SOUND FROM ABOVE (3 Jul. 2010) Former Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Nagasaki Branch Museum

musicians | Sizzle Otaka | Momoko Aida | Koji Shimakawa
supported by Community Media Co., Ltd.


FROM ABOVE in Nagasaki (29 Jun. - 19 Jul. 2010)
@ Nagasaki Peace Museum

produced by Koji Shimakawa (COSMIC SOUL, Tokyo) & Gallery ef
in collaboration with Nagasaki Peace Museum | Community Media Co., Ltd.
supported by Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace
official footage Community Media Co., Ltd.
sponsored by private donators


FROM ABOVE (12 Mar. - 12 Apr. 2009) @ Gallery ef, Tokyo

produced by Gallery ef
in collaboration with The Center of the Tokyo Raid and War Damages | Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace
related project | "3.10: Words from 100,000 People" by Ikko Suzuki & Kirara Kawachi

project management : Gallery ef



Nagasaki Hibakushas
[ Sep. 2008 ] Masakatsu Obata | Hidetaka Komine | Akio Sakita | Hiroshi Suenaga | Sumiteru Taniguchi | Sachiko Matsuo | Hiroshi Matsuzoe | Hisanobu Murozono | Yoshiro Yamawaki | Katsuji Yoshida | Tsukasa Watanabe
[ Jul. 2010 ] Masatoshi Tsunenari | Sakue Shimohira | Masahito Hirose | Etsuko Nagano | Yoshitoshi Fukahori | Senji Yamaguchi | Itaru Takahara | Setsuko Taira
supported by Seiichi Fukui | Nagasaki Foundation for the Promotion of Peace | Community Media Co., Ltd. | Nishi-Nippon Newspaper

Tokyo fire bombing survivors
[ Oct. 2008 ] Michiko Kiyooka | Minoru Tsukiyama | Mieko Toyomura | Haruyo Nihei | Kazuyo Funato | Yoshiko Hashimoto
supported by The Center of the Tokyo Raid and War Damages. | Gallery ef

Dresden fire bombing survivors
[ May 2010 ] Margarethe Buhr | Rudolf Eichner | Elisabeth Engelhardt | Margit Fischer | Helga Hoeppner | Lieselotte Jakob | Anita John | Nora Lang | Guenther Kannegiesser | Lothar Liebelt | Ursula Skrbek

Hiroshima Hibakusha (lives in Tokyo)
[ Jul. 2010 ] Hisayo Yamashita
supported by Kimiko Tanabe | Koji Shimakawa

Hiroshima Hibakushas
[ Nov. 2010 ] Rumi Hanagaki | Tetsushi Yonezawa | Shuntaro Hida | Kiyomi Kohno | Miyoko Matsubara | Keiji Nakazawa | Suzuko Numata | Emiko Okada | Akihiro Takahashi | Koko Tanimoto Kondo | Chisa Tanimoto
supported by Seiichi Fukui | Koko Tanimoto Kondo | Wordl Friendship Center | Kyoto Museum for World Peace, Ritsumeikan University

Bikini H-bomb experiment Hibakusha
[ Nov. 2010 ] Matashichi Oishi
supported by Daigo Fukuryu-maru Exhibition Hall