Tag Archives: Hiroshima And Nagasaki

Aaron Hobson: The Tōhoku Project

My good friend Aaron Hobson, The Cinemascapist, was recently in Los Angeles, where he was working on a film. We met at a rooftop bar one evening and over drinks and a view of the Hollywood Hills, Aaron and I got caught up to speed.

Aaron has been working on a project about Google street views, and his international Internet street view surfing (done from his home in the Adirondacks), landed him in the Tohoku region of Japan that was devastated from the 2011 Tsunami/Earthquake. Seeing the current state of affairs in this area Japan hit him in a profound way and he knew he had to do something. When Aaron showed me this image, it so defined what that region faces…one lone man sweeping the road of a devastated landscape.

I’m turning over the rest of this post to Aaron, so he can share his plans to help:

So a few months ago I shared my streetview series from the Tohoku region
of Japan that was devastated from the 2011 Tsunami/Earthquake. Since
then I have not been able to get the images out of my head. I think in
part because I can relate to the people in these small remote villages
as I also live a very similar remote life.

I have found myself thinking about them over and over again and realize I
need to help. Not by taking photos to make a donation to red cross, but
actually hands-on physical labor. I found a great nonprofit group that
will put me up and I will be working 10-12 hour days rebuilding homes
and cleaning up the miles and miles of debris that still remains. I also
hope to raise awareness again for the region. The scale of damage is
mind boggling. They estimate anywhere from 10-15 years to rebuild. The
damage was greater than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

I hope to raise enough funds to stay there for a bit of time rebuilding
and taking photos in what little free time I have so that I can do an
annual trip to document the rebuild over the next 10 years. 100%
proceeds go to requisite travel with all remaining funds going to the
relief group that I will be working with.

Anyway, long story short, images are priced to sell at $25 for signed
20″x10″ prints in edition of 25. To get the ball rolling, the well known
collector/curater John A. Bennette has bought the first 5 images of
this goal. Hopefully it will sell fast at this price and small edition

More than one year after the Tōhoku earthquake and resulting tsunami,
the devastation remains visible and the amount of work still to be done
seems exceedingly daunting (some estimate 10 years). What remains of
fishing villages and small cities, has been organized into huge mounds
carefully separated by category: cars, boats, household debris, metal,
fishing and oceanic supplies, with piles reaching as high as five
stories and encompassing 5-10 city blocks. The following images were
gathered from hundreds of miles of “virtual travel” along the eastern
coast of the Tōhoku region via Google Earth Street View. During these
travels it was extremely rare to come across any street view in the
region that didn’t have a crew diligently working or small groups of
fisherman trying to go about their daily lives.

I want to help be a part of the
rebuild… and not by just taking photos or print sales to donate cash
to foundations like the Red Cross, but with actual hands-on physical
labor. I plan on working with the nonprofit Disaster Relief
Organization It’s Not Just Mud (INJM). After “visiting” hundreds miles
of coastline via streetview during the creation this series, I have not
been able to stop thinking about the people affected from this
disaster. Maybe I can relate to these small remote villages because I
also live in a remote village, or maybe it was seeing the destruction so
clearly in near real-time, block by block for miles and miles?
Assisting in the relief efforts is something that I NEED to do, not just
want to do. My goal is to assist in any capacity necessary with INJM,
as well as, making this an annual effort on my part. I will be
documenting my efforts and will post photos both during and after my

I can’t make this happen without your
help. All the images in this series are all for sale and 100% of the
proceeds contributing to any requisite travel costs. Any remaining funds
will be donated to It’s Not Just Mud to help aid in their continued
efforts. For more information about It’s Not Just Mud and its recent
projects, visit the website at itsnotjustmud.com.

The 9.0 undersea
megathrust earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, Japan, occurred
on Friday, March 11, 2011. It was the most powerful known earthquake to
have ever hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in
the world, since modern record-keeping began in 1900. The earthquake
triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5
meters (133 ft.) in Miyako in Tōhoku’s Iwate Prefecture, and which, in
the Sendai area, traveled up to 10 km. (6 mi.) inland. The earthquake
moved Honshu 2.4 m. (8 ft.) east and shifted the Earth on its axis by
estimates of between 10 cm. (4 in.) and 25 cm. (10 in.).

On March 12, 2012, a Japanese National
Police Agency report confirmed 15,854 deaths, 26,992 injured, and 3,155
people missing across twenty prefectures. The report also indicated
129,225 buildings were totally collapsed, with a further 254,204
buildings ‘half collapsed’, and another 691,766 buildings partially
damaged. Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left
without electricity and 1.5 million without water. Early estimates
placed insured losses from the earthquake alone at $14.5 to $34.6
billion (in U.S. funds). The World Bank’s estimated economic cost was
$235 billion (U.S. funds), making it the most expensive natural disaster
in world history.

All images are for sale

After the Storm: Post-Tsunami Japan by Kishin Shinoyama

Japan is no stranger to catastrophe. From the near-constant sequence of storms and earthquakes that have buffeted these vulnerable islands to the unthinkable that unfolded in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese have seen their land leveled, rebuilt and leveled again. But the earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan this March were unique in their ferocity, their suddenness and the extent of their destructive power.

Eight months later, the cleanup is well under way, but those who wish to bear witness to the raw wound that was northern Japan in the wake of the tsunami should see the photo collection ATOKATA, just published by the Tokyo-born photographer Kishin Shinoyama. Shinoyama brought his camera to the scene within weeks of the tsunami, and he captures a land ripped apart. Stunned tree limbs, twisted metal and shattered stone bear witness to the moment when, as Shinoyama writes, “nature destroyed itself with an overwhelming energy.”

Yet even in Shinoyama’s dire images there is a hint of recovery. Disaster is in the Japanese DNA—but so is resilience.

Kishin Shinoyama is a photographer based in Japan. ATOKATA was published November 21.

Bryan Walsh is a senior writer at TIME. Follow him on Twitter at @bryanrwalsh.

Review: Cary Markerink, Memory Traces

I should start by saying that this review is long overdue. This is partly due to the fact that my blogging activity has ground to a halt of late, but also because of Memory Traces itself. The book is an intimidating object consisting of one oversized (30.5 x 41 cm) volume weighing in at a hefty 202 pages accompanied by two smaller books, ‘Höffding Step’ and ‘Dark Star’, inset into a custom cardboard case. Memory Traces is not only intimidating but unwieldy. This is not a book that can be casually flicked through: it requires space (if only to support its weight and size) and time to get through its complex layout made up of gatefolds and double-gatefolds of different sizes. Its three-book structure is also complex and of course there is no easy instruction manual provided to tell you how to get started. However, while these first observations may come across as criticisms, it is precisely because Memory Traces is such a difficult book that it is so unique.

Sarajevo, Hrasno 1997

The central book in the trilogy consists of a series of large format landscape photographs that were made in Sarajevo; Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Berlin, Bitterfeld-Wolfen and Ronneburg; Bikini Island and Nam Island; Chernobyl; Khe San and My Lai. These images all depict places that have been deeply affected by recent man-made conflicts or disasters. However, Markerink’s images are far removed from the inflated drama of what has become known as ‘ruin porn’. His photographs of Sarajevo, My Lai or Chernobyl reveal places that seem to be defined by the scars of their past. As the Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu said of Nagasaki, these are places where it seems as if “time has stopped”. Memory Traces also depicts landscapes, such as those of Hiroshima or Berlin, that show few visible signs of past traumatic events. Although these cities are still defined in many ways by their history, their landscapes are in the process of being radically transformed by the objectives of economic growth.

You could say that Memory Traces deals with the different ways that history manifests itself within the landscape. However, it is as concerned with the present and the future as with the past. One of the most remarkable things about the imagery in this book is its treatment of time: the locations that Markerink has photographed all have troubling pasts, but these images do not give the sense of looking back. Instead they raise questions of how the past is carried forward and transformed as time passes. Although it is made up entirely of landscape photographs, this is fundamentally a book of big ideas. Markerink is not interested in the formal aspects of landscape, but rather in how landscape acts as a mirror for culture, for society in general. In ‘Höffding Step’, a book of text combining travel diaries, reflections on contemporary culture with Markerink’s views on the changing nature of photography, Memory Traces reveals itself to have even greater and broader aspirations.

'Moonset over Ground Zero Able & Baker A-bomb test shots (Bikini Island) and Bravo H-bomb test shot (Nam Island), Bikini Atoll – 1999'

With Memory Traces, Markerink has created an object that is designed to create the space for us to stop and think, a space that is essential when dealing with such ambitious subjects. Everything about the way it is made — the book’s huge size, its use of gatefolds, etc. — seems to be designed to slow down the reading process as much as possible. This is a book that also made me think about the way that we read photobooks. To use Markerink’s own description, Memory Traces is an “experience” with many entry and exit points rather than a book that can simply be read from start to finish.

If all of this sounds a little lofty, that is because it is: I doubt that you will ever come across a more ambitious photobook. It is a project that Markerink worked on for over 10 years, one which he describes as a gift he decided to make to himself for his 50th birthday “as a means to come to terms with (his) culture and (his) position within it.” It is a book that swims directly against the current of these times in which images are made, distributed and consumed and discarded in a matter of seconds. It will most likely bewilder you, frustrate you, confuse you and probably keep you coming back for more. Like Terence Malick’s Tree of Life, it is not without its flaws, but it is rare to come across projects that are this outrageously ambitious and for that alone Memory Traces is worth seeking out.

Ronneburg, Uran Tagebau Restloch, 2001

Cary Markerink, Memory Traces. Ideas on Paper (self-pub., clothbound hardcover, 30.5 x 41 cm, 202 pages together with two small booklets, ‘Höffding Step’ and ‘Dark Star’ 12 x 16 cm in a printed box, 2009).

Rating: Highly Recommended


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