Photographers' Blog

A fisherman’s sad tale

By Yuriko Nakao

Seaweed grower Takaaki Watanabe took to the sea in his boat before the massive tsunami roared into the northeastern Japanese town of Minamisanriku, becoming one of a lucky few to save the vessel essential for their livelihood.

But back on shore the raging waters of March 11 swept away his wife, his mother and his house, built on land in his family for 13 generations, though his three teenaged daughters managed to survive.

“At that time, I wasn’t sure whether I could actually resume the cultivation (farming seaweed, scallops and oysters). I had no way of knowing my future,” he said recently.

Now, nearly a year later, the 48-year-old Watanabe has lost 5 kg and four teeth, but is starting to see tentative signs of rebirth as the result of his hard work since the massive wave touched off by the 9.0 magnitude offshore earthquake destroyed a vast swathe of his town, one of the hardest hit.

Much of this is due to the new – and still unusual – measures he and other fishermen have taken to preserve their livelihood: banding together to work in small groups rather than alone or in family units, as was always traditional.

With or without you

By Yuriko Nakao

One photo of a young woman, wrapped in a beige blanket and standing in front of a pile of debris, became one of the iconic images right after Japan’s massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake, which triggered huge tsunamis that devastated a wide swathe of northern Japan.

Reuters, along with other major agencies, picked up the photograph run by Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, shot by Tadashi Okubo, a photographer with the paper. The image was published extensively around the world, and many people came to know her as the woman wrapped in a blanket.


(Yomiuri Shimbun)

Her name is Yuko Sugimoto. She is 29 and the mother of a five-year-old boy and was born and raised in Ishinomaki, where the photograph was taken. Around 3,800 people perished in Ishinomaki alone, the highest death toll for any individual city.

Flirt

Photographer Damir Sagolj won second place in the multimedia story section of the POYi awards for the following piece on the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011.

View more of Damir’s photographs from Japan here.

Tragedy in Fukushima: when can we go back to home again?

After covering myself from head to toe in protective clothing in the hope of protecting me from radiation, I went to accompany evacuees who were temporarily allowed to visit their homes in the 20 km no-entry zone surrounding the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, a place now notorious for its radiation leaks.

My destination was Okuma town where the whole population of about 11,000 had been evacuated since last year’s earthquake. The town is still afflicted with high levels of invisible radiation.

In the evacuees’ memories, the town was a beautiful rural town with a close-knit community and the only unusual thing was that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was located close by.

Have you seen this Fukushima child?

By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Near midnight on March 12th, 2011, I was looking for Fukushima evacuees who had fled from towns near the nuclear power plant hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake the day before, and was now leaking radiation.

On hearing the warnings of meltdown and radiation leaks at the nuclear plant, my colleagues and I drove west from Fukushima airport where we landed by helicopter with two very simple goals: stay as far away as possible from the nuclear power plant, and find the evacuees.

However, there was no clear information where to find the evacuees and how far away we had to stay from the nuclear plant to ensure our safety in the panicky and chaotic situation.

Learning to smile again

By Toru Hanai

Six months after Japan’s massive earthquake and tsunami, I went back to visit six-year-old Wakana Kumagai who lost her father in the disasters in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture.

I photographed Wakana when she visited her father’s temporary grave at a mass burial site in Higashi-Matsushima on April 21, after attending an entrance ceremony at her elementary school. I was struck by how positive and optimistic Wakana behaved.

Five months later, Wakana bowed her head in prayer with her mother Yoshiko and brother Koki at the exact spot where the car of their late father Kazuyuki was found. The family crouched in prayer at 2:46 p.m. as Japan marked exactly six months since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Half a year after disaster

By Kim Kyung-hoon

“Time flies so fast.”

I can’t count how many times I’ve mumbled this phrase while traveling in Sendai and Fukushima last week for the six month anniversary of the March 11th earthquake and disaster that left tens of thousands dead across Japan and caused the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

With the scenes of fear and hopelessness from the areas devastated in March and the hardship of the assignments still vivid in my memory, I feel like the disaster happened just a few weeks ago.

Six months had passed when I hit the road again with my TV colleague Chris Meyers, who traveled to the area with me in March, in order to document how much the tsunami-hit areas have recovered. As I once again traveled around the northern part of Japan, some areas have recovered at a pace I didn’t think possible in March.

Invisible snow

Invisible Snow from Reuters Tokyo Pictures on Vimeo.

When the Fukushima nuclear power plant exploded, I was in Fukushima covering people who had evacuated from their houses near the plant, as they underwent radiation checks as authorities isolated those who had showed signs of exposure.

The disaster control center in the prefectural government hall in Fukushima city, situated about 63 km (39 miles) north-west of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was chaotic. However, once I stepped out the building, everything around me looked the same in the city and it was difficult to comprehend what was actually happening. People in the city were walking their dogs outside and riding their bicycles on the streets, although lights were out and many places were experiencing cuts in water supplies.

Soon after, I received an evacuation order from my bosses and since then, my coverage was carried out from outside of Fukushima city and I didn’t have a chance to go back there until recently. Even five months after the disaster, it seemed like fresh and shocking news of radiation had been floating up incessantly. Not just reading or hearing about the situation but imagining the amount of pain and stress the people in Fukushima were going through had made me feel depressed.

Clearing the rubble but not the sorrow

By Kim Kyung-hoon

In 2004 I was in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh covering the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster which killed over 230,000 people in several south Asian countries. I met a tired-looking man tackling huge piles of rubble created by the tsunami in a brave effort to clean it up. He had only a shovel to use on the debris stretching on all sides as far as the eye could see. He stopped a moment and bemoaned to me that it would take more than several years to clear the rubble in his country. He also added that a rich country like Japan could clear it quickly with giant heavy construction equipment if a similar disaster happened in Japan. When I left Banda Aceh after my one-month stay there, the scenery going from the Reuters temporary base to the airport was almost the same as what I had seen on my first day there, and dead bodies still lay on the streets.

Last weekend, I traveled to Japan’s tsunami–destroyed towns again with my colleague to cover Japan’s traditional festival obon, when families welcome back the spirits of the dead.

It was five months after they had been struck by the March 11 magnitude 9.0 quake and huge tsunami. I could see that the Indonesian man’s insight was correct.

Fishing with film

By Carlos Barria

In the “old” days, back before digital photography, photographers used to lug around tons of extra luggage, portable dark rooms, and set up shop in their hotel bathrooms. Or they would send their film — by motorcycle, car or even plane — to somebody else in a hotel or office close by to develop it, scan it and file. Or they might have to scramble and look for a lab in the middle of a crisis, in a foreign country. I don’t think my colleague Joe Skipper speaks Spanish, but I know that when he covered a showdown at Colombia’s Justice Ministry in the 80s, he learned how to say, “Mas amarillo!,” “More yellow!


North America chief photographer Gary Hershorn arrives to the Vancouver international airport with all his photo lab luggage. REUTERS/Stringer

I began my career as a photographer at the beginning of the digital era, working at La Nacion in Argentina. There, in 2000, I had a front row seat to the transition. I shot film myself, but for a very short period.

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