Fukushima – Two Japanese photographers witness the area.

The subtitle could be : what is the role of a photographer considering the aftermath of a nuclear disaster ?

18 months – Toshiya Watanabe

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Toshiya was born in 1966 in Fukushima. His parents were still living in the area, when the nuclear disaster happened. He knows perfectly well the area as a former inhabitant of the place. This is the reason why he returned again and again to register the changes of the area. The disaster happened two years ago and we don’t hear anymore about the people who used to live in Fukushima. What have they become ? What does it mean not to be allowed to go back to visit the place where you come from ? How can we register an invisible threat ? In this book, Toshiya tries to answer those questions. The title of the book indicates the lapse of time when the photographs were shot.

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The book is very sober, 15 cm x 21 cm, white softcover with title inscribed in black, 36 pages, 18 color photos, each with a simple caption : a date and a location.

What he shows us is the banality of daily landscapes, a railway, a parking lot, a street, a house… but without human beings. The area is deserted. All the photographs are empty. We are in the middle of the evacuated area and when we see someone, he is dressed in a white security suit, like a ghost wandering in an empty land. The most frightening is probably the picture with the photographer’s reflexion in a window, and we discover that he is also dressed with this suit to avoid radiation exposure (with a loop effect, as the shop was a photographer’s studio). After some outdoor pictures, we follow the photographer to his parents’ former house. They have been evacuated, leaving everything behind. Except for the mess of the earthquake, it seems people were just outside for a while. We could almost hear the phone ringing in vain !

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Toshiya continues to register the evolution of the area and he has started to rephotograph the places. A project which becomes a dreadful photographic survey. I hope that a forthcoming publication will keep us updated… What will be next ? Will this be an everlasting abandonned region ? What will remain as a testimony of a former inhabited area ?

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More info : toshiyawatanabe.see.me/

Bokyaku – Daichi Koda

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The second book on this topic comes from a younger photographer. Daichi was born in 1983 and, as he says, he did not know Fukushima, neither about the nuclear plant. In his statement, he claims that the role of a photographer is to reveal the unseen. That is the reason why he felt necessary to drive to Fukushima to document the area.

The book is a bit larger than Toshiya’s one. 21 x 26 cm, softcover similarly sober. 92 pages, 55 photos, here again in square format.

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All the photographs were shot between 4 kms and 59 kms from the nuclear power plant. Daichi documents the deserted areas, but also people displaced after the disaster. In the zone with a high level of radiation, the pictures are without human beings, just a few animals remain in deserted open landscapes. One stunning picture is the one with a cow, staring at the photographer from the middle of the road. Each photo comes with a caption indicating the date and the distance from the power plant. A little bit farther from the plant, we see people occupied in daily duties, or traditional scenes from Japanese life, but we never forget the threat because of the use of those captions which always bring us back to the reality. All the photographs appeal to the imagination. When we see a tractor working in a field, we wonder what kind of product will grow there and what about contamination. Will these be eatable or will they be thrown away. Same questions with the cows in a dairy. What will be the quality of the milk. And of course these reflexions drive us to what becomes the life of all those displaced inhabitants, and what becomes the life of farmers who completely depend on the environment ? What may be in the mind of the farmer walking in his field who seems to check the quality of the soil ?

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With what is shown here, we feel an invisible threat, all over these photographs. A man puts on a white security suit, a police woman looking at daily instructions, a man pushing an empty wheelchair… All those little details that our mind will fill up with the help of our knowledge of what is a nuclear hazard, even if a very few of us have already experienced one.

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We, as human beings, have a very short memory, repeating again and again the same mistakes. I think that those photographers may help us to remember, and, maybe, try to avoid repeating those mistakes.

More info about Daichi Koda : http://daichikoda.com/

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4 Comments on “Fukushima – Two Japanese photographers witness the area.”

  1. Important books.

    Paule

  2. Really great post Christer. I’ll be looking for these books, Thanks.


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