Exposure by Kazuma Obara

30 years ago, on April 26th 1986, an explosion occured in a reactor of the nuclear power plant in Chernobyl. It has been, so far, the worst accident that has ever happened, in terms of costs and casualties. The unimaginable had become real. Lot of commemorations happened this week, and this post is a kind of small contribution to help us never forget the risks of nuclear hazard !

So here comes the time of a new crossover with my friend Gabriela, with a beautiful book about the aftermath of Chernobyl, of which only ten copies are in circulation.


The series « exposure » by Kazuma Obara has been awarded by the World Press Photo in the category People. This is a first. At all times, the WPP has always been a traditional institution and therefore, rather awarded subjects, certainly brilliant, but nonetheless of traditional form. For once, the award has welcomed an aesthetic images portfolio, certainly, but above all a story with a strong storytelling without any documentary documents.

Kazuma is passionate about history. His previous book « Silent Histories » restored a voice to the civilian victims of US bombing on Japanese territory at the end of the Second World War. This time, Kazuma is interested in the indirect victims of the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl. To do this, he created a story. It tells the life of a young woman who was born five months after the disaster, in Kiev. Fetus exposed to radiation, she suffers from a young age thyroid disorders, but she will only be operated at the age of 24… Interweaving « autobiographical » texts and photographs, Kazuma takes us in the footsteps of this disaster . Much has already been shown, whether ruined buildings or remaining population, in the manner of Guillaume Herbaut – The Zone – which now has regained a tourist attractivity, and the effects on health with deformed children born after the explosion, in the manner of Paul Fusco and Magdalena Caris – Chernobyl Legacy. They both are incomparable factual documents that show reality as it is. However, it lacked a representation that can show us the reality as experienced, something that is like an… interpretation.

To do this, Kazuma Obara has recovered old color films from the Soviet time, which he had found in Pripyat. Expired, irradiated, the results could only be surprising, especially since the products to develop no longer existed. Whatever, the result would be part of the process. After all, the title plays with the ambiguity of the term « exposure », both the photographic process of exposing the film with light, and the exposition to the invisible radiations after the explosion of the nuclear reactor. Before being used by the photographer, these films have already printed on them, the past history … Kazuma will improvise a black and white development with these films. The result is very imprecise, and, from a sensitometric point of view, quite bad, but who cares since these images tells the History. Black and white are sometimes faded, sometimes smoky, but still vague and it is in this inaccuracy that lies the beauty of the images.

The compiled phootgraphs tell us thiry years of the life of Maria. Inhabited places, abandoned places, in between locations and evanescent faces, the images are symbolic (including a view of the famous ferris wheel in Pripyat, a group of children…). I have to confess that aesthetics of certain images, for me, refer to another photography of a tragic youth, the one of Francesca Woodman, died at the age of 23. Destinies, both similar and opposite of these two young women. A form of photographic afterglow as a metaphor of the ability to register memory of the film.

The book is superb in his form and so touching by its content, it is an undeniable success which we would like it to be the subject of a public reissue, as was the case with Silent Histories, first published in 45 copies, then published by Editorial RM. Beyond the joy of being one of the lucky ten owners, this book deserves to be seen by many more.


Hardcover, 13 x 19,5 cm. 62 pages with 27 black and white photos. 10 copies signed and numbered. Sold out.

More info : http://www.kazumaobara.com/aboutme/index.html

exposure from Kazuma Obara on Vimeo.

All images copyright Kazuma Obara, can be removed on request.


Here is Gabriela’s review : https://gabrielacendoya.wordpress.com/

Exposure. Kazuma Obara.Autoeditado.                                                                                               

Hoy una nueva colaboración con Christer Ek ! Es un placer y un honor poder compartir esta pagina con el por segunda vez, esta vez con un nuevo libro de Kazuma Obara. Encontraréis su texto a continuación del mío.


Tapa dura, en tela.19,5 x 13 cm. Encuadernacion a mano.Blanco y negro.

27 fotografías. Texto en inglés, editado por Michael Thomason.

Impreso en Japón.

1° edición, numerada y firmada. Tirada 4/10.

Auto editado Kazuma Obara. Marzo 2016.


Hace poco presenté aquí el libro Silent Histories de Kazuma Obara. El fotógrafo japonés (1985 ), afincado entre Londres y Japón, ha ganado este año el premio del World Press Photo, en la modalidad de People ( gente ), con Exposure. Un premio nuevo del World Press Photo, con una credibilidad añadida en este caso, después de varias polémicas sobre la idoneidad de premios anteriores. Kazuma  hizo un trabajo sobre las consecuencias del tsunami en Japón, que originó la catástrofe nuclear de Fukushima, (siendo el primer fotoperiodista que entró en la central después de lo ocurrido). Se dio entonces a conocer, con un libro publicado en 2012, Reset beyond Fukushima, antes de publicar Silent Histories, con un gran éxito. Exposure sigue la linea de ese trabajo acercandose  a las propias víctimas y dandoles voz y protagonismo.


Kazuma encontró 20 carretes de color a pocos kilómetros de Chernobyl, de la época del accidente o poco después ( obsoletos en 1992 ), para fotografiar la zona. Exposure, el titulo, trata tanto de la exposición a la radiación que ha sufrido la población de la zona como del tiempo de exposición de las fotografías. Trabajadas en blanco y negro, llevan, indeleble,  la marca del escape radioactivo. Son imágenes roídas,  en proceso de desaparición, casi fantasmagóricas, de lugares y personas bien precisos. Habitaciones, salas de hospital, escuelas, la noria de Pripyat, espacios de juego, cercanías de la central… Espacios que tienen que ver con la vida de Mariya, nacida en Kiev a los 5 meses de la catástrofe, y cuya historia seguimos aquí, a través de su propio testimonio, en los textos que acompañan las fotografías. Mariya pasó años en habitaciones de hospital, con graves problemas de tiroides y de corazón, sufriendo para siempre en su cuerpo las terribles consecuencias de la radiación.


El libro cuenta una historia de una difícil superación, la recuperación de una infancia robada por terapias y sufrimientos, sentimientos de culpa e incomprensión y abandono. Kazuma retransmite la visión positiva de una posible superación humana . A pesar del horror que documentan sus fotografías, siluetas fantasmas y habitaciones destruidas. La fotografía, frágil imagen que ha sobrevivido a la tragedia, nos recuerda que la vida es mas fuerte que la muerte.

Exposure es un libro que deja huellas, como la historia que cuenta, fuerte y conmovedora. Sobrio y perfecto en su presentación, irradiando en su interior.


Solo puedo desear, sinceramente, como dice Christer en su reseña, que el libro tenga otra edición con tirada mas importante , a pesar de sentir satisfacción de tener una de las diez copias de esta primera edición. Kazuma Obara es un fotógrafo que cuida mucho sus publicaciones, haciendo muchas maquetas, y esta vale mucho la pena.

All images copyright Kazuma Obara, can be removed on request .





From Russia with love !*

The photographic scene in the countries of Eastern Europe is extremely prolific. It has this generosity in creating that can be perceived very often when a country emerges from the shadows of an authoritarian regime. The energy stored for years seems to free creation. I have already had occasion to speak of many works from the east and here are five more books that caught my attention recently.

May 9 by Alexey Nikishin


May 9, in Russia, is dedicated to the commemoration of the end of World War II (just one day after us!) And it is the subject of this book. But instead of commemorating the war Alexey Nikishin celebrates peace. The book begins with a few excerpts of war correspondence, some words that reflect the hell, as if, to remind us, all who have died for each of us retains freedom. Published in 2015, this book was originally the result of an assignment for the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, but rather than photographing parades of veterans, Alexey chose to show the world that has become possible thanks the victory of the allied troops.

For three years, from 2012 to 2015, Alexey has traveled the world and brought us fragments of lives. The quality of the photographs here lies in their banality, they bear witness to these daily moments that make the richness of our lives, small details, holiday photos, a couple kissing in a long sequence of three photographs taken like an embrace, turning around the couple in an improvised ballet, three views, three seconds of an eternal scene. Each photo is meticulously captioned with the date, time and place as if to affirm a reality which one could doubt, almost images to post on social networks, whose imperfections reflect the reality.

Hardcover, 21 x 24 cm, 72 pages, 30 colour photographs, text in a leaflet in English, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese. First published in Russian in 2015, second edition (first English edition) of 30 copies signed and numbered, published in 2016.



The journals, by Alexey Nikishin and Anton Shagin


The journals is an experience in two voices, or to better say, two scriptures: the first, Alexey’s one is photographic, the second, Anton’s one is in prose. The journal which will become the journals tells us three years of the relatioship between these two friends. It all started when Alexey glued some of his early black and white pictures, in a notebook that was handed to Anton, the latter has kept it with him, annotating with poems, according to his moods and desires. The journal has evolved, it stopped, was found again. There have been additions, withdrawals, gaps appeared… and it lasted three years. How then could one tell this experience, how a book could depict a project, together with its evolution, and not just showing the outcome ?

In this book, we came across a woman, swans and other patterns that come as chanting the same repeating words. The layout leaves space, the photos are small as to prevent us from giving them too much importance ; whites take their place. White, not as an empty space but rather a break. White in a book, it is like the silence on the radio, it’s scary, but well used, it is superb! In the end, the shape is very beautiful, the three books are glued, one passes from one to the next by the touch of the thickness of the cover. The chapters are marked, history reinvents itself … this book talks about the passing of time … and a little of ourselves.

Softcover, 17,8 x 24 cm; 132 pages; 90 black and white and colour photos, text in a leaflet in English, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese. First published in Russian in 2015, first English edition of 30 copies signed and numbered, published in 2016.



iPhonographique, by Alexey Nikishin and Valeria Gai Germanica


Alexey loves combine photography and writing. This time, he worked with the Russian director Valeria Gai Germanica. In the title is understood that the subject touches the “new photography” as practiced with smartphones. After years of a silver traditional photography in black and white, Alexey discovered the joys of “instant” colourful photography. Frenzy of social networks, publications on Instagram, how many followers ? How many likes ? Two people interact, the two combined texts and photos, of Valeria and Alexey, to create a narrative about the weird ways of living, loving and suffering.

When you read a text, images appear in your mind; when we see pictures, a story is invented, too, in our heads. This book is the coincidence of the two. More than a description of one by the other, we are witnessing here an added value, a synergistic effect, an invented sense that remains nevertheless opposable to a alternate reading. It’s like a gigantic stage of life itself: every life is Shakespearean … and every day, we put our daily life on the scene of social networks!

Softcover, 15 x 20 cm, 42 Pages,, French Folding, Japanese Binding; 34 colour photos, text in a leaflet in English, Russian, German, French, Dutch, Chinese, Japanese. First published in Russian in 2015, first English edition of 30 copies signed and numbered, published in 2016.



Dimitry, by Julia Borissova


There are myths in the Russian history and Dimitry is one of them. Dimitry was the youngest son of Ivan the Terrible. He died mysteriously with cut throat, that was enough for the myth to come to life. For me, these names instantly summon famous names, like Eisenstein (Ivan the Terrible), or Pushkin (Boris Godunov, reinterpreted later by Mussorgsky), two authors who have interpreted this part of Russian history; but we also feels appear in the background the shade of Roland Barthes, particularly with his book “Mythologies” depicting the process of the creation of the myth. How an event can induce doubts or hopes? What about the part of history it creates, it recomposes? How the facts are twisted by the reading of a people or by its leaders? Dimitry’s story is a striking example, including his canonization by the Russian Orthodox church. This book by Julia Borissova is superb as are all those she already produced herself, handmade crafted.

A narration made of collages takes us through the Eternal Russia, images mingling to become timeless. We follow the ghost of Dimitry in the Russian countryside, he moves like a shadowy icon bearer (one thinks of course also to Andrei Rublev). It’s an oniric journey with no goal, just an imprecise souvenir floating like a dream. We try to appropriate the story to better tell it at our turn, enriching the myth ! The book can be read as an investigation, as is every work of a historian, looking for traces and details. Each society rewrote the history according to its modernity, one who is adored one day, becomes despised the day after, and so is built the myth of the hero. Julia Borissova continues her investigation without us deliver the key… One will also see a “prophetic” rooster through the pages which reminds us to the tale by Pushkin, more known from Rimsky Korsakov’s opera in XIXth century : The Golden Cockerel whose theme was the fall of the Tsarism (premonition of the October Revolution) which finds here its metaphoric sense with the murder of the Tsarevich, heir and symbol of the violent excesses committed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. One of the finest books published this year, each page is an icon!

Artist book self published in 2016, 14,5 x 19 cm / Die Cut Hardcover, handmade binding / 88 pages. First Edition of 100 signed and numbered copies.



Artless confessions, by Fyodor Telkov


This last small book takes us back to our childhood. A school notebook of fine paper, protected by a flexible plastic cover. Plain blue, with lines to write his name in hand on the cover. For six years, Fyodor was interested in the most neglected classrooms, especially for a special feature: the graffiti left by students. Some classrooms have a lower maintenance than others and tables accumulate memories, like palimpsests Classrooms are austere, but when approaching tables, life arises. We discover, here, what could be considered as a aesthetic mix of primitive and contemporanian expression.

It is fascinating to discover the universality of these graffiti. Around the world, the subjects are the same. We do not understand the native language, but the patterns are recognizable, flowers, houses, people, signs and symbols as: peace, war. The trace of the language courses, writings in English or German; the adolescent emotions, sex, religion, chivalry, but also some unrecognizable drawings, just a wandering hand on the table, curves and bold and scarifications. Some drawings are naive, others more structured, and some become exquisite corpses reproducing a transgenerational imagination. We stop on the drawings and begin to dream, we would like to take a pencil to add our own trace, our mind wanders and moves away from the classroom, amongst Cypress Hill and Wu Tang bands, teenage dreams seem to be universal…

Self published softcover book, published in 2015. Digital printing, 17 x 20,5 cm, 32 colour photos. 30 copies signed and numbered.



* You may notice that I am an old fan of early James Bond films starring Sean Connery.

Almost Bari, by Mara Dani

Take a guide book and this is how it will be spoken of Bari: both economic and cultural place, this university town has a long history and a charming old historical center. Take the time to discover the front door of Puglia, to walk its streets especially at the hour of the passeggiata. For me, I have mainly heard of Bari as a gateway for North African immigrants, more known during riots in 2011. It tells how much the connotation took precedence over the denotation.


Mara Dani lives in Bari where she teaches English. She has also developed in recent years an interest in photography which she used to realize a systematic and methodical exploration of the city of Bari. To complete the connotation, the idea of Italian photography convenes instantly two famous names : Gabriele Basilico, undisputed master of architectural photography and Michelangelo Antonioni, undisputed master of boring peri-urban desolate environments. These two influences are found in the work of Mara Dani : a highly architected approach of the urban structure, alternating pictures, shot from above showing the typology of urban form with views from ground level that takes us erratically to one neighborhood to another.

With this work, Mara urges us to follow her and to get lost with her in the empty streets. Spaces are designed for cars and atmospheres are far from those of downtown (which I do not know), far from the hubbub and the linguistic frenzy that inhabits the films of Italian neorealist cinema. We are in contemporary Italy, which, like every big city has been urbanized frantically in the second half of the twentieth century. This city is a port city with a high density of population, and Bari is like all our western cities, including this seen before building or piece of wall. Only vegetation, or an earthenware retail attests that we are in the South… and then, suddenly, the turning of a page, a photo of the Istituto per le case popolari… this building finally reassures us, it corresponds to our preconceived image of Italy.

Throughout these pages, Mara Dani talks about contemporary issues such as urban landscapes, post industrial forsaken territories, resilience, conurbation, urban transportation … It is both the backstage of the city, and the everyday banality of a city life, all these locations made of spaces we cross every day without noticing, sometimes without even looking up. They evolve back and forward without anyone noticing. We well remember that here, in another time, there was a field, but don’t know since when the latter disappeared. The city is built like a gigantic palimpsest, each layer superimposed on the previous one, while erasing details. Our memory is diluted and only a few old postcards attest about our grandparents’ stories.

Mara’s look on her city remains always endearing, it takes us away from the waves of tourists who have invaded the historical city center. No selfies in these sets, there remains only the authenticity of a growing population to house at all costs. The beautiful title, itself, confirms this statement with both the accuracy and the vagueness of ambiguity : almost Bari.

Hardcover book, 16 x 21,5 cm, 92 pages, 77 black and white photos, foreword by Gian Luigi Sylos Labini and Alessandro Cirillo. 300 copies signed and numbered.

More info : http://www.maradani.it/recent-works/almost-bari/

And by the way, talking about contemporanean landscapes and Antonioni, you should also consider the beautiful Ravenna by Gerry Johansson. Ravenna was the location of the film « The red desert ».