Archives for : October2011

Tohoku by night

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


Porn star granddad

Porn star Shigeo Tokuda, 77, poses for a photo in in an entertainment district of central Tokyo, Japan. Photograph: Robert Gilhooly

Story in today’s Guardian by Tokyo correspondent Justin McCurry about a 77-year-old porn star. Excellent story by Justin McCurry in the Guardian story here

Parents still searching for missing children


Story about parents still searching for missing children in Ishinomaki published in Japan Times. Online version here


Tsunami 6 months after 2 (before/after photos)

Tsunami 6 months after 1

Some of the photos taken during assignments up in Tohoku around the time of the 6-month anniversary mark of the March 11 quakes and tsunami. More photos can be found here

NPO helping with abuse against women in quake zone

During my most recent visit to Tohoku, to cover stories related to the 6-month anniversary of the disasters, I met the representative of an NPO that is trying to help female survivors who have been abused. It was not an entirely comfortable meeting — the rep herself, Kusano-san — was inspirational and delightful, but the subject matter obviously caused her as much grief as it does the women who are being subjected to the abuse. The majority of people that her NPO, Miyagi-Jonet, consults with are subjected to mental and physical abuse, but there are also instances of sexual abuse and even rape, she told me. The subtle way the the NPO deals with these problems is admirable and I am really grateful to the Japan Times for agreeing to run this story about what is a very sensitive issue.

Kusano-san called me this evening to thank me for the story, and I could sense real gratitude in her voice. I told her it was me who should — and is — grateful, for sharing the information she imparted. I hope she manages to find the extended support that she and her NPO is going to need.

The NPO maintains an excellent blog (Japanese only) which can be found here

PS The headline in the version above was not used in the paper itself.

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