Fukushima 7th Anniversary

Remember Fukushima.  The disaster began seven years ago, but it is still happening, and will go on for many years . Radioactive materials are still escaping from the  melted down cores of the three reactors damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged reactors, with the water needed to keep the No 1 plant core cool still releasing around 2 billion becquerels a day – although the bequerel is a very small unit, still a substantial amount. Recent research by the University of Manchester has also shown the surrounding area up to several kilometres from the plant to be contaminated with micro-particles containing radioactive uranium. Different isotopes have widely differing decay rates, but the clean up will certainly take hundreds if not thousands of years.

In a sane world, we would have delayed any introduction of power generation from nuclear fission until the problems of nuclear disaster and nuclear waste had been properly investigated, but in the real world people saw the promise without letting the unsolved problems deter them, though TEPCO’s choice to build their nuclear power station in an earthquake zone was surely a gamble too far. And clearly no sane person would ever suggest we make or use nuclear weapons – and only one rogue country has so far used them. Japan had plenty of evidence from Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the the dangers of nuclear catastrophe

When photographing protests I look for pictures that as well as concentrating on the people taking part also show clearly the 5 W’s (and the H) as promulgated long ago by Aristotle – Wikipedia gives a quotation from St Thomas Aquinas:

“For in acts we must take note of who did it, by what aids or instruments he did it (with), what he did, where he did it, why he did it, how and when he did it.”

The photograph at the top of this post uses the fine poster for the event which has a precis of the what  of the occasion and why those taking part are doing so. In the second image I’ve included the brass plate of the Japanese embassy along with the two Japanese Buddhist monks taking part in the event.

Other pictures show the long banner listing some of the major nuclear catastrophes – Windscale 1957, Three Mile Island 1979, Chernobyl 1986 and Fukushima 2011  (two further major incidents at a nuclear weapons plant on the Techa River in Russia, including the 1957 Kyshtym disaster were hushed up by Russia.) 

Passing Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly I was intrigued by the window displays featuring various teapots, one of which I thought perhaps looking a little like the overheated core of a reactor, and I photographed it with one protester who comes to protests with her own hand-embroidered placards which often attract photographers walking past.  She is a woman who used many years ago to work with my wife and I often go and have a few words with her when I see her at protests, but I kept to my normal practice of not posing people when I’m photographing events. I’m there to record events not create them and simply stood in the right place to take the picture as she walked past.

But of course you have to create pictures, by making use of what the event has to offer. I’ve photographed Bruce Kent on many occasions (not always as he would have liked, but never unkindly) and on My London Diary you can see some closer views as he spoke. But in the tightly-cropped head and shoulders view he could be speaking anywhere about anything.

While in the picture above only those familiar with Westminster will recognise the plinth on which he is standing in Old Palace Yard, the radioactivity symbol makes fairly clear the nature of the event, and assuming you can read back to front that it is about Fukushima. The figure in the yellow suit beside him perhaps helps, and certainly draws the eye to the speaker (though perhaps the yellow arm and leg on the point of a toe do give an impression of boredom).

Of course I didn’t set this up – or I might have found some way to get the flag the right way around. There was quite a breeze, and the flag was fluttering fairly wildly and while it might have been easier to get someone to hold it still in the correct position with a hand out of frame I didn’t do so. Nor did I ask the person holding at right out of frame to keep the bamboo pole still and at the same angle, though it would have made life easier.

Partly I didn’t do either of these things as it would go against my idea and training of not manipulating the news, but also because I remain convinced of the value of chance and accident which often make my images rather more exciting than any limited ideas I might have about making pictures.

Rather a lot more to see on My London Diary at Remember Fukushima, 7th Anniversary.


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