Fukushima and its aftermath. The challenge here is classic: how to tell a story when nobody knows what the real story is, and all we are left with is a few bereft survivors moving about yet another moonscape surrounding a destroyed technological apparatus.

Landscape & Other Things Post-Atomic. The tendency in a disaster zone is to notice the fresh details, not the ruined landscape. We tend to look for the immediate causes of our distress — then we see how pretty the post-atomic landscape is, and are taken aback. Perhaps we missed something? The air  pure and sweet. The stars have not yet gone to bed. Well, maybe some will disappear tomorrow. In the meantime we keep watching to see what changes another chill night brings. Of course it’s we who have changed; the decorous arrangements we made with our lives are cancelled. We must rethink our place in the sun when a white chunk of it burns bright in its steel crypt a few kilometres away.

All Food is Radioactive (But the Degree Varies). The Fukushima food items shown here are radioactive in the higher degree. A million years from now scientists will be able to pinpoint exactly where these fish and pears came from, because their isotopes have unique signatures — like the fingerprints of some manic beast that briefly held them up to its nose and marked them as his own.

By then they might be edible again. Of course, we could eat these items now, as long as we don’t actually touch them. It is like fugu, the poisonous fish that only kills a few. Call this askew aesthetic lethal snacks. We wore gloves when we styled these photos, and thought ourselves heroes for recognizing their terrible beauty behind the glass case of our utter disbelief.

Portraits of Fukushimites. Instantly on March 11 2011 a new tribe of Japanese was created, a post-biblical people whose relationship with the earth shifted into pure contingency and horizontal expectation.  Everything commonplace is now indistinct for 80,000 people — see how they look up at a cloud-filled sky and down at the raw ground with equally grave doubt? They are sceptical of their own existence. Where will they go? What is more time to them? Our efforts to follow their daily rounds through fresh rubble and artfully heaped rubbish were met with the weariness of actors who had been jobless too long. They went through the motions of watching people just like themselves wearing medical masks on television who knew no more than they did. They became a tribe dedicated to the vagueness of official purpose. Waiting for the last something else to happen.


Notes by Larry Frolick.