Photography

Mighty Silence

On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit, unleashing a tsunami that would bring untold devastation and destruction to the country, and destabilise the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant. Photographer Yasushi Handa had an unusual reaction — far from fleeing the disaster, he decided to document it. Only 20 days later, he set out alone with his cameras to shoot what he saw: trains thrown far from their tracks, ships carried high onto dry land, huge fuel tanks crushed like tin cans and villages reduced to debris.

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Eighteen months later, Handa set out again, this time having to shoot through the fogged-up goggles of an anti-radiation suit, and captured abandoned towns now shrouded in the plants that grew despite the lethal conditions. The photographs, collected together in a new book, are stark, beautiful and troubling. There are no people visible, but the incredible detail picked up by his 65-million pixel camera means that the traces of lives, the treasured possessions that became detritus, creep into almost every frame. The overpowering smell caused by rotting fish, grain and bodies may not be represented, but the silence is deafening.

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Mighty Silence: Images of Destruction and the Tsunami of East Japan by Yasushi Handa (Skira) is out now