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They are called “hot spots”, the many locations across Fukushima where radiation levels are extremely high after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant spewed radioactive material into the air.
Things ended up the way they are because the plume of radioactive material traveled northwest (inland) from the power plant because of weather conditions and precipitated in the form of rain. The damage was widespread, my hometown of Date, located some 60 km northwest of the plant, being no exception. These works were taken in various places in and around my hometown starting from April 2011 just after the Great East Japan Earthquake struck.
As I was taking these pictures, I began to divide what I was looking at into several layers. For example, if someone was standing in front of a mountain, the shot would be composed of the mountain in the background and
the person in the foreground with the space in-between as the middle-ground. Put simply, because the radiation had infiltrated the middle-ground like some kind of foreign substance, I sliced what previously would have amalgamated everything into one scene, into a foreground (the person) and a background (the mountain). In other words, I began to see space as layered, kind of like you see in Photoshop. Then, there is another area I can add: the space between my lens and the person (close-up).
Before printing any of the photos, I scan the developed film into a computer to get the data. In the process, tiny specks of dust and dirt that stick to the film end up appearing in the image. Normally, I would delete any secondary noise through a step known as “spotting”, but I decided to leave them as a reminder of the dust-laden air adrift in Fukushima.
The theme of these works is “time”. It's a theme that applies to all of my other work as well because it speaks to the decay, destruction and demise of things and events. Through this project, I got a strong feeling that the way people perceive and value time changed after the earthquake. That, I gather stems from the fact that the potential impact of radiation on the cellular and genetic levels poses long-term risks to those who were exposed and the physical sciences tell us that the radiation will be here for an absurdly long amount of time before it dissipates. That recognition underscores the material contrasts of “radiation vs people” and “inorganic vs organic” that I have taken as primary concepts for this exhibition.
Born in Fukushima. Since studying image arts in America, has been professionally active doing mostly portraits and landscapes in Japan. Moved from Tokyo to Fukushima in 2018 and has since been producing works on the post-earthquake environment in Fukushima. Recipient of the Nobuyoshi Araki Award at Canonʼs 13th New Cosmos of Photography competition and the Ina Nobuo Award at the 42nd Nikon Salon. Publications include “Travel to South America” and “Panda Chan” (Little More), “1/41” (Joho Center Publishing), “The Circle” (Self-Published), “Panda Time” (Hagazussa Books), and many others.
Gallery Talk with Photographer Katsumi Omori(In Japanese)