Photographers' Blog

A visit to Fukushima Ground Zero

By Issei Kato

“This day finally came.”

That was my first impression when I was chosen as a pool photographer on behalf of foreign media based in Japan to visit the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

We were allowed to enter the plant last Monday, ahead of Japan’s one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. The media tour was the first to take place since the Japanese government announced in December that reactors at the plant had reached a stage of cold shutdown. We were allowed to cover not just from inside a bus, but from a certain outlying spot close to a reactor building for 15 minutes.

The pictures and TV footage of the explosion at Fukushima Daiichi that followed the disaster had filled me with fear. Although the government and the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) had explained at the time, that it was a “hydrovolcanic explosion” we had witnessed, the blast appeared more like the explosion of the atomic reactor itself. “Can we keep on living in this country?” “Would this incident end up forcing Tokyo and nearby residents to abandon home to escape?” I can easily recall the fears I felt at the time of the explosion.

When I received the offer to do this assignment, honestly, I struggled against a feeling of fear, thinking about its potential risk. But then I recalled the reason why I chose the job of a news photographer. A key motivation was that I wanted to be “an eyewitness of the historical moment.” I just could not refuse the offer and decided to take the opportunity to enter Japan’s ground zero.

During the tour, we were strictly required to wear a full-face mask, protective suits, shoe covers, and globe, and carry an alarm pocket dosimeter (APD). We also had to receive a screening test and a white blood cell scanning test before and after the tour. Frankly speaking, it was not at all a perfect condition to take pictures, with a full-face mask which made me feel unbearably hot. Camera equipment was also required to be wrapped by plastic bags to avoid radioactive contamination. A goggle with the full-face mask was misted due to sweat and humidity, which occasionally made it difficult to see anything in the viewfinder.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures 14 August 2011

This week Pakistan marked its day of independence from British rule with parades, parties, face painting and bombs.  Two pictures of faces covered in colour, one paint, the other blood, seems to sum up all there needs to be said about the national pride Pakistan feels while facing so many challenges. Visually the complementary colours of green and red (colours on opposite sides of the colour spectrum) make the pictures jump out of the page especially when put side by side. The angry eye staring out of the face of green in Mohsin Raza's picture engages the viewer full on while in Amir Hussain's picture the man seems oblivious of his wound as blood covers his face, again more opposites, this time not in colour but mood. India too is preparing to celebrate its independence and Dehli-based photographer Parivartan Sharma's picture of festival preparations came to mind after I put together the red-and-green combination picture from Pakistan.  

 

(top left) A man, with his face painted depicting the colours of the Pakistan national flag, attends a ceremony to mark the country's Independence Day at the Wagah border crossing with India on the outskirts of Lahore August 14, 2011. Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

A man, his face bloodied by a head injury, is held by a resident as he waits to be evacuated from the site of a bomb blast in Dara Allah Yar, located in the Jaffarabad district of Pakistan's Balochistan province, August 14, 2011. A bomb ripped through the two-story building in Pakistan's restive southwest on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding nearly 20, police said. REUTERS/Amir Hussain 

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A Week in Pictures April 3, 2011

In case anyone is in any doubt about the volatile situation many of our staff and stringers work under in Afghanistan I want to recount what happened on Saturday. Ahmad Nadeem was covering a demonstration that was sparked by the actions of extremist Christian preacher Terry Jones, who, according to his website, supervised the burning of the Koran in front of about 50 people at a church in Florida. The mood at the demonstration changed very quickly as the crowd sought a focus for their anger. Ahmad, our stringer in Kandahar was targeted. He was beaten with sticks, his gear smashed and his hand broken. Then an armed man instructed the mob to kill him. Ahmad fled for his life escaping into a nearby house where he successfully hid from the mob. Earlier in the day a suicide attack also hit a NATO military base in the capital Kabul, the day after protesters overran a U.N. mission in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and killed seven foreign staff in the deadliest attack on the U.N. in Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN-VIOLENCE/KABUL

Bullet holds are seen on the windshield of a car used by insurgents after an attack at Camp Phoenix in Kabul April 2, 2011. Insurgents clad in burkhas attacked a coalition base in Kabul with guns and rocket-propelled grenades on Saturday, but were killed either when they detonated their explosives or by Afghan or coalition fire outside the entrance, NATO and police said.    REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

AFGHANISTAN/

Afghans chant anti-American slogans during a demonstration to condemn the burning of a copy of the Muslim holy book by a U.S. pastor, in Mazar-i- Sharif April 1, 2011. Afghan insurgents used mass protests against Koran burning as cover to launch an attack on the United Nations building in northern Mazar-i-Sharif city, in which at least seven foreigners were killed, the governor of Northern Balkh province said. The United Nations death toll in an attack on the U.N. compound in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif could be as high as 20, U.N. officials told Reuters on Friday. REUTERS/Stringer