In August 2011, Japanese photographer Kazuma Obara entered the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima as a worker and captured unseen, unauthorised images from inside the plant. His photos of the plant rapidly spread across international media. For the following three years, Kazuma continued to cover the story in Fukushima. He encountered a series of difficulties in visually documenting the effects of the nuclear disaster, as many problems were invisible. This led to a change in his style of work, moving from direct representation, as in conventional photojournalism, to a more indirect style. Kazuma has also documented the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. In 2015, he used films which had been exposed to radiation for thirty years to create abstract images speaking of the present-day problems caused by the nuclear disaster. More recently, Kazuma used an old camera which belonged to one of the victims of nuclear testing on Bikini Atoll in 1954 to document the untold history of hidden nuclear victims.
In this talk, chaired by Dr Ele Carpenter, Kazuma eexplained the various challenges in visual storytelling and how they relate to the current visual environment and “post-truth” era. He also talked about his contemporary photobooks, including Reset Beyond Fukushima and Exposure, which he uses to tell these stories.
Kazuma Obara’s book Reset Beyond Fukushima (Lars Müller Publishers), which is written in English and Japanese, is available to buy for £45 from Lars Müller Publishers website.
Thumbnail Image: ©Kazuma Obara
A video of the talk can be found here:
About the contributors
Kazuma Obara is a photographer based in Japan. He gained an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. In his work he focuses on documenting the hidden victims of nuclear catastrophes and wars. Kazuma was the first photographer to convey the story from inside the nuclear power plant in Fukushima in 2011. He has published several books including: Reset Beyond Fukushima, Silent Histories and Exposure. Silent Histories was shortlisted for the Paris Photo / Aperture Photobook Award and was selected by TIME and Telegraph as the Best Photo Book in 2014. His project Exposure, which depicts victims of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, won 1st prize in the People category of World Press Photo 2016. He also won the Magnum Photos Graduate Photographers Award in 2017. His photographs have appeared in international news media and photo festivals.
Dr Ele Carpenter
Dr Ele Carpenter is Senior Lecturer in Curating at Goldsmiths University of London. She is a curator and writer in politicised art and social networks of making. Her curatorial practice responds to interdisciplinary socio-political contexts, such as the nuclear economy. Her curatorial research into nuclear culture investigates the contemporary aesthetics of living in the nuclear anthropocene through commissioning new work, field research, writing, and curating exhibitions, film screenings and round table discussions. Ele is the Curator of the Nuclear Culture Research Group at Goldsmiths University of London. She is also an Associate Curator with Arts Catalyst London, and Bildmuseet, Sweden. Ele is editor of The Nuclear Culture Source Book.