Hatsuzawa Ari on the earthquake yearPosted: 24/06/2012
Since the March 2011 earthquake and flooding of Sanriku there’ve been various books of photographs of the aftermath, from the major newspapers and elsewhere. Excellent examples may have somehow passed me by, but for whatever reason I hadn’t seen any book that as a whole seemed more than conscientious and competent until the other day when I was looking around in a regular bookshop (whose photobook section offered UNESCO World Heritage sites, puppies, kittens, the latest by Araki, not much more), and came across Hatsuzawa Ari’s True Feelings.
The amount here strongly suggests that Hatsuzawa was in the area when the earthquake struck, and stayed there. But no, he’s a Tokyo-based commercial photographer who occasionally has an urge to go somewhere and photograph something non-commercial but important: in early 2003, both in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq and in the early stage of its occupation, he’d gone to Baghdad (resulting in a book that I haven’t yet seen).
Hatsuzawa rushed up to the Sanriku area the day after the earthquake hit:
This was the first of 18 trips there through the year. More from March:
The earthquake caused enormous fires, of which the most serious was in Chiba, a long way from the most serious tsunami damage. This fire doesn’t seem to be clearly identified, but the context strongly suggests that it’s the JX Nippon Oil & Energy plant in Sendai, which burned for days.
I’m reminded of Kikuchi Shunkichi’s panoramas of Hiroshima immediately after the bomb.
April brings cherry blossoms, of course. April in Kesennuma:
And into 2012:
The young people on the left will be celebrating coming-of-age day. (Thus the “adult” cigarettes.)
The distinctive building at the right within the photo on the left is in Kesennuma; it both belongs to the company making Otokoyama (男山) sake and advertises it. The building appears in a lot of post-earthquake photo collections (not that I’m complaining). If you’re thinking that you’ve enjoyed Otokoyama but that surely it was from somewhere else, you might be confusing it with Otokoyama from Asahikawa (Hokkaidō), Otokoyama from Hachinohe (Aomori), Otokoyama from Miyako (Aomori), Otokoyama from Shiogama (Miyagi), Otokoyama from Yamagata, Otokoyama from Itoigawa (Niigata), Otokoyama from Hokuto (Yamanashi), or Otokoyama from San’yō-Onoda (Yamaguchi).
Hatsuzawa has been very energetic and has amassed a great number and variety of photos here. He’s got the “obligatory” photos: not only the Otokoyama building, but the burning refinery (above), and the police barrier against entering the area designated as radioactively contaminated. But he’s also got a man holding a rabbit in front of his house, whose upper floor seems to be inhabited by chickens; he’s got a worker (it would seem) in an otherwise deserted cafeteria playing the sax; he brings other little surprises too. And he has a marvelous eye for colour. Don’t believe your eyes: my incompetence in photographing the book has messed up the colour balance. (I don’t try hard to rise above this incompetence, as I hope you’ll look at the book itself, or at least at websites whose JPEGs are authorized by the photographer.)
Which of course raises the question: How can you talk about “an eye for colour” and suchlike arty folderol when dealing with photos of the aftermath of sixteen thousand deaths?
Because the photographs would be no more compelling or informative or otherwise valuable if they weren’t as good. Are, bure, boke is old hat; each can of course be used to good effect but draws more attention to itself (and easily looks more affected) than does the (conventionally?) skilful. Moreover, the people in the book are wearing neat suits and kimono where they can. . . .
The English-language title True Feelings is more conspicuous than the Japanese title, which means the true (genuine) feelings of scars (or a scar), and whose meaning isn’t much clearer than the English. (Genuine feelings about the scar[s], or prompted by them?) The photos are identified by place (in roman letters). Hatsuzawa provides a short essay (in Japanese only) for each month, Tsukahara Fumi provides an appreciative if busily name-dropping essay (again in Japanese only), and Hatsuzawa supplies an afterword (in English only).
The book probably won’t win any design awards because a lot of pages have not-so-elegant arrangements of two or more photographs. And a curator would say that editing should be tighter. But me, I like the way that the book has over a hundred and fifty photographs without taking more space on the shelf than is necessary.
The printing and binding are unexceptional but easily up to the job, and the price is very reasonable. Come to think of it, couldn’t the publisher have jacked up the price by ¥500, to be contributed to charity? But perhaps this is hard to arrange; and certainly publishers in Japan have enough other worries as it is. We buyers of the book can always make our own donations.
Hatsuzawa’s website/blog is here at Facebook. (A few days ago, anyone could see this. Now, and I hope just temporarily, you have to log into Facebook in order to do so. I’m not a member and have no plan to join.) There’s a page of links to his photos (to which access was unrestricted when I last looked): some of the links are in English and point to the photographs collected in True Feelings.
Here (in Japanese) is a short review of the book at Asahi Camera.
San-ei Shobo, the publisher, mostly deals in magazines and books about cars and other ways in which people can spend their money. The relation here is that Hatsuzawa is a commercial photographer specializing in cars and did work for San-ei Shobo’s car magazine Genroq, which serialized the photographs later collected in this book. This book is unusual for San-ei and merits some self-congratulation, not to mention publicity. But San-ei Shobo’s page about it, listed within the section on “other practical books and guidebooks” (その他の実用/ガイド), is surprisingly modest and uninformative. Note to San-ei Shobo: It’s a good book; throw yourselves a little party!
If you’re in Japan, True Feelings is easy to find. If you see it in a bookshop, look at the very last photo for 2011, and if this doesn’t “sell” the book then I give up. If you’re not in Japan, you’re likely to get it at a reasonable price via Japan Exposures.
Copyright of most of the images above belongs to Hatsuzawa Ari; I don’t own the copyright of any of them.