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 .