It has taken me a while but I have now managed to upload some of the pictures of this small series of night shots taken throughout the tsunami-affected parts of the Tohoku region during various visits between April and June. Exposure times vary between a few seconds and 1 hour. A couple of them were taken in the rain. Some of them drew the attention of the local police patrols and their red flashing lights and heavy-duty torches, which occasionally meant I had to make lengthy explanations and, more distressingly, then reshoot.
Main reason for doing this? The first time I tried it I was too tired or stressed, or both, to sleep and ended up going out for a drive, throwing my camera and tripod in the back of the car. Also of influence was an early evening meeting with a fisherman and his family who were living in a tent amid the rubble of their otherwise deserted community, which was located a stone’s throw away from the sea. As I drove home in the dark along massively scared and unlit roads I started to wonder what it must be like at night time without electricity, gas and all the familiar sounds and faces of their flattened coastal community and also taking into account what they had witnessed in March.
Of course, I can’t ever really know the true answer to how the tsunami survivors feel, what effect the night has on them when it closes in, if they have nightmares about the events of March 11, or whether or not they sob in grief at the memory of lost loved ones, and so on. But each time I tried shooting at night it completely freaked me out. And that was just for a time scale of minutes. I don’t know how successfully — if at all — these photos reflect the sheer emptiness of these once vibrant landscapes, but I cannot remember the last time I felt so vulnerable.
A photographer once told me that the attraction of mounting your camera on a tripod and doing long time exposures was that it then freed you up to take your face away from the viewfinder and open both your own eyes to all that’s around you. To soak it up and burn an impression on your own mind’s silver halide salts. Well that it certainly did, though the sound of creaking iron — amplified in the emptiness of night — did have me glancing at my watch from time to time. And then there came the occasional aftershocks … And this was mostly in total darkness, with just a head torch (and on occasion the moon) to illuminate the way.
Thanks for taking the time to look.
Link to online gallery here