Geist - - Features - —An­n­marie Mackinnon

On March 11, 2011, Ja­pan was shaken by a mag­ni­tude-9 earth­quake. The en­su­ing tsunami killed nearly 16,000 peo­ple, ren­dered hun­dreds of thou­sands home­less and caused a melt­down at the Fukushima Dai­ichi Nu­clear Power Plant. Thir­teen months af­ter the disas­ter, the pho­tog­ra­pher Michel Huneault went to To­hoku, the north­east­ern re­gion of Ja­pan that lies ap­prox­i­mately 72 kilo­me­tres from the epi­cen­tre of the quake, to doc­u­ment the af­ter­math and to vol­un­teer on re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion projects. Over the course of three months, Huneault shot pho­to­graphs of the de­struc­tion and recorded video and sound along 250 kilo­me­tres of coast from Fukushima to Ke­sen­numa. The re­sult­ing doc­u­men­tary project, called Post To­hoku, ex­plores the ef­fects of large-scale catas­tro­phes on col­lec­tive and in­di­vid­ual mem­ory and con­fronts questions of how to un­der­stand trauma and mourn­ing.

In late 2015, nearly four years af­ter his ini­tial visit, Huneault re­turned to the To­hoku re­gion to pho­to­graph the re­con­struc­tion of the roads, con­crete break­wa­ters, towns and vil­lages dam­aged and de­stroyed by the wa­ters. This se­cond por­tion of the Post To­hoku project, with its im­ages of ex­panses of bare earth or new con­crete on a back­drop of calm sea, il­lus­trates “the ten­sion be­tween an en­dur­ing pop­u­la­tion and the chal­leng­ing coastal land­scape it re­mains will­ing to live in.”

Re­con­struc­tion projects are es­ti­mated to cost more than $300 bil­lion and are sched­uled to be com­plete in 2020. Five years af­ter the tsunami, 230,000 peo­ple still live in tem­po­rary hous­ing and more than 2,500 peo­ple are listed as still miss­ing.

Post To­hoku will be ex­hib­ited from May 5 to June 12 at Camp­bell House Mu­seum as part of the Con­tact Photography Fes­ti­val in Toronto.

Newly built tsunami es­cape tower, Ishi­no­maki, Ja­pan.

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