Retrace our steps. Return to Fukushima

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Almost all of the 80,000 nuclear refugees forced to evacuate areas near the Fukushima Daiichi plant have at times felt compelled to return to their homes, schools and businesses. When they did, they struggled to recognize places that had once been so familiar to them. Damage from earthquake and tsunami of March 2011, years of absence and the arrival of rodents have rendered the buildings practically unrecognizable. We asked former residents or inhabitant from the Fukushima region, and in some cases, the actual owners of certain properties, to join us inside the no-go zone and open the doors to these ordinary, but now unfriendly, places. Facing the camera, they were asked to act as normally as possible – as if nothing had happened. The idea behind these almost surreal photographs was to combine the banal and the unusual. The fact of the historical nuclear accident gives these images a real plausibility.

Since the tsunami and the nuclear catastrophe of March 2011, Carlos Ayesta and Guillaume Bression have made regular visits to the region of Fukushima, and especially to the “no man’s land” around the stricken power station.

The fruit of their numerous visits is five series of strongly aesthetic photographs which mix posed situations with a documentary approach. Offbeat photos, which stimulate thought at the consequences of a nuclear accident on such a scale.
What remains in a region where 80.000 people were evacuated from one day to the next? –“Clair-obscur” How do you live with a menace that is as invisible and poorly documented as radioactivity? – “Bad dreams” How does nature make its mark on every building, every thing, as time goes by? – “Nature” How have abandoned objects become the relics of a modern Pompeii? “Packshots”

And finally, what do the former residents think about going back to their ghost towns? For the last series, called “Retracing our steps”, they asked former residents – sometimes the owners – to come back to their shop or their school, to open the door of those places that were so ordinary before. They also invited some of the residents of Fukushima region to go with them to this zone where entry is now forbidden. A way for them to see for themselves the impact of the disaster.
In front of the camera, however, they are invited to act as if nothing had happened, and to behave normally. The normal and the strange intermingle in these almost surreal yet plausible photographs, the sequel of a historically important nuclear accident.

Ayesta and Bression seek to only record the consequences of a massive and durable evacuation, at least for the towns closest to the power station. Theirs is not the work of activists.

Read More about this project.

Making Of