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The Story in the Wind

09 images (2011)


The September 1896 edition of National Geographic featured several well-composed glass plate photographs of the aftermath of the Great Meiji Sanriku Tsunami.  The 1896 tsunami in northern Japan killed over 20,000 people. It was the worse tsunami in Japan's recorded history,  before the Great East Japan Earthquake in March, 2011. 


One month after the 2011 earthquake I travelled with my large wooden camera and darkroom tent into the decimated region to make my own glass plate images. I was curious how my images of the tsunami region would look beside those glass negatives from over one-hundred years ago. I also imagined how my images will be viewed one hundred years from now?  What will these images say about the evolution of photography and how we see the world? 


Unlike the photographer in 1896, I wasn't there to accurately record the destruction in the tsunami aftermath. I was there to give expression to the aura of the tsunami. It remained palpable not only in the destruction, but also unseen as a memory in the landscape. With the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plant this became all the more poignant. There was radioactivity in the atmosphere which I could not see. Radioactive particles were flying in the air around me and somehow influencing the way I was perceiving the landscape and creating images

While making glass negatives in my darkroom tent, I gazed out of the tent's red window and became acutely aware that the landscape outside was devastated and devoid of human life. In this bleak landscape my sense of time was becoming warped. The moment to moment sense of time passing had slowed down dramatically, while a more ancient and longer since of time was returning to landscape. It was a kind of non-human time.


Our experience of time is deeply subjective. That's why I use long exposures for my images; to shift my view of time. If our perception of time is so malleable, what is time?  I also asked myself, how can I photograph the memories of the landscape that are carried in the wind?  I feel that they are there and attempt to record them in my work. With these images I feel I reached some degree of success in achieving this.

Edition of 09

image size 18" x 24"  (457mm x 610mm),

paper size  24" x 36"  (610mm x914mm)


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