FROM THE 247TH TO THE 341ST DAY, TOHOKU
On 11 March 2011, at 2.46 pm, a huge earthquake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, struck Tohoku, a coastal region in northeast Japan. The quake’s epicentre was off the Sanriku coast, filled with fishermen. The tsunami that followed destroyed almost all the inhabited areas along the coast and created apocalyptic scenes leading to the deaths of nearly 20,000 people.
The government and the media continue to emphasize that a tsunami of this size only happens once every thousand years, thereby implying that the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant was unforeseeable. In actual fact, this was the fourth massive tsunami of the modern era, after those of 1896, 1933 and 1960.
In November 2011, eight months after the disaster, I began travelling along the devastated coast, spread across three prefectures: Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. The debris has been cleaned up and stacked into mountainous piles. Various grasses and weeds have claimed possession of wastelands. Birds now come back to the centre of town, emptied of its inhabitants.
By walking along the edge of the flooded zone, I tried to photograph these suspended landscapes, in transition. In these images, various artefacts governed by the principle of economic priority have been transformed by the sea. Their limits become vague. Car wrecks, the quintessence of industrial products, seem to imitate the shapes of waves and mountains.
Beneath the wind that sweeps across wastelands, I often had the illusion of being a 19th century photographer in Egypt or Mexico. Destroyed sea walls, cut-off roads, exposed foundations These constructions of our modern civilisation have become the ruins of an archaeological site. As though the tsunami had suddenly projected us towards the future.