Michael Koerner (Okinawa, Japan, 1963) is the oldest of five brothers. Due to genetic abnormalities and cancer, he is the only remaining living son. His brothers' fates (and potentially his own one day) can be linked to their mother, who was eleven years old on August 9, 1945 when the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. She lived in Sasebo, Japan, 45 miles away from the blast. The long-term effects of severe, acute exposure to gamma radiation led to his mother’s death at an early age, and all of his brothers. Koerner’s work explores his family history and genetics through small tintypes, using photographic chemistry to assimilate the bursts and biochemical fallout from the atom bomb. I am the oldest of five brothers. The next born son of my parents lived for only several days. The next son was stillborn and the next was miscarried late in the third trimester. The cause of each of these tragedies was traced to genetic abnormalities. My youngest brother, Richard, eventually succumbed to complications associated with two separate bouts of lymphatic cancer He lived until he was 32 years of age.
There is a tremendous amount of pain and guilt associated with these horrendous endings. It is almost impossible to eliminate or even subdue the feelings that something could have been done differently or avoided. Unfortunately, these feelings are amplified in my family. My mother, Kimiko Takaki, was eleven years old on August 9th, 1945 and living in Sasebo, Japan, which is about 45 miles away from the atomic bomb blast in Nagasaki that fateful day. About half of the 80 thousand deaths from the attack on Nagasaki occurred in the first day, while the other half of the deaths occurred from radiation sickness and burns in the following few months. Realistically, the ultimate death toll is at least ten times higher when you approximate the longterm effects of severe, acute exposure to gamma radiation. My mother and each of her four siblings died of rare genetic disorders and/or cancer at ages much younger than the median life expectancy.
I remain hyper-vigilant towards my own cancer diagnosis and exhibit my own feelings of survivor’s guilt. These feelings and family history and experiences drive my artistic hand.