By Carlos Barria
A year ago I went to Japan to cover the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the country’s northern coast.
At the time I was shocked by the scale of the destruction and felt I needed to show the magnitude of the disaster. I tried to fill my pictures with as many elements as possible. I even took a series of panoramic-format photographs, for a wider view.
My pictures at the time showed spaces filled with pieces of houses, twisted cars and people’s belongings– the debris of daily life.
Then two weeks ago, I returned. I found myself walking in some of the same spots I visited originally. Things hadn’t changed too much; little seemed to be rebuilt. But all those spaces were clean and somewhat empty this time. It was hard for me to visualize houses or other buildings standing there, as they once had.
People had organized and separated the debris. There were piles of plastics, metals, wood and clothes ready to be recycled. The debris of daily life was still there, but broken down and re-allotted according to its most basic components. I started to separate and organize debris in my mind, looking for textures, colors, forms, materials. I saw blue hues in the metal piles, and orange scratches of oxidization. I saw mountains of circles in car tires, and crisscrossed strands of rebar.
I thought about people recycling all these elements, and asked myself how Japan would recycle the past to create a new future. Then one afternoon, I saw two kids playing basketball in one of those empty spaces. The surrounding buildings were gone. There were no more nets or backboards. But the court was still marked on the ground, and that’s where they played.