Friday, March 25, 2011

The Week in Photos: Devastation Above and Below the Surface

You can catch my full weekly photo review at Le Lettre de la Photographie; here, I'm focusing on images from Japan, where, in the week after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, reporting and visual documentation shifted from the immediate emergency to assessment and narrative. Visually, this was expressed in images taken from a variety of perspectives, from panoramic to intimate.

1. Dark Day After

In this photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images (no name given in credit, unfortunately) the photographer has pulled back to reveal the ravaged landscape of Yamada town in Iwate prefecture, which on March 16 was dusted with snow. In the dim, cold blue light, the town might be a cemetary.

2. Little Hope

 Photographer Go Takayama shot this picture for AFP/Getty Images. Here, a volunteer bathes a 2-month-old who had been evacuated with his parents from Okuma, near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Compared the the image above, this photograph provides warm light and, in the child, a hope for the future.

3. What Once Was

 The New Yorker's March 28 issue included a gripping narrative by Evan Oznos tying together the disaster with perspective on Japanese culture and geological history. It was accompanied by double-truck images filled with cinematic power that proplled the story forward. This photograph, by David Guttenfelder for AP, pulls back to reveal what once was Minamisanriku. Look closely at the center of the image; a survivor is riding a bicycle through the damage.

4. Rescue Workers

Closing in, photographer Adam Dean (Panos) photographed rescue workers piling bodies onto a truck in the town of Rikuzentakata in Iwate prefecture. The image also appeared with the New Yorker article.

5. Surface

Time magazine supplied a visual narrative, publishing a photo essay by James Nactwey, who, as the magazine noted, "was one of the first photographers on the ground in northern Japan after the earthquake and tsunami hit. Nachtwey also provided the text for the piece, in which he contrasted a "surface of reality [that] is unimaginable" with the journalist's compulsion to look "below the surface, where the human tragedy is equally unimaginable. To depict the surface, he constructed a panorama from a number of images.

6. Below the Surface

Here, Nactwey moves below the surface, showing us bodies lying in the ruins of a hospital in Minamisanriku.

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