Fukushima: The Irresistible Power of Nature, Philippe Chancel's photography

Philippe Chancel Fukushima: The Irresistible Power of Nature

Rikusentakata_GPS_39°1’14’’N 141°37’23‘’E 2011-06-13 03:48:35 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Higashimaecho_GPS_39°16’23’’N 141°53’36’’E 2011-06-14 07:59:36 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Sendai_GPS_38°2’20’’N 140°55’10’’E 2011-06-12 04 :04 :44 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Minamisanriku_GPS_38°54’20’’N 141 34’ 22’’ E-2011-06-13 04 : 52 :47 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Minatoguchi_GPS_37°43’22’’N 141°0’29’’E-2011-06-07 05 :10 :39 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Rikusentakata_GPS_39°0’11’’N 141°40’27 E-2011-06-13 05:29:44 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Kitashita_GPS_38°0’5’’N 140° 54’ 20’’E 2011-06-08 02:44:56 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Onagawa_GPS_38°26’32’’N 141°26’40’’E 2011-06-10 5:48:048 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Ishinomaki_GPS_38°34’29’’N 141°27’0’’ E 2011-06-13 01:32:08 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Kesennuma_GPS_38°54’55’’N 141° 34’53’’E 2011-06-12 06:17:56 G.M.T, Tohoku, Japan, 2011.

Artist's Statement

On 7 June 2011, less than three months after the havoc caused by the tsunami in the Tohoku region of northwest Japan and the outbreak of nuclear contamination around Fukushima, I headed north from the line marking the 20 km red exclusion zone around the nuclear reactor. Ten days later, having driven over 500 km and covered even greater distance on the ground in search of an area left intact, I reached the outskirts of Miyako.

What I saw was beyond imagination. The scale of the devastation caused by the tsunami and its impact recalled aspects of the effects of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In the aftermath of the disaster, I instinctively sought to capture a different reality from the facts themselves – a deeper, underlying reality. The silent suffering, that I saw and felt everywhere I went, was that of a hard-hit country bitterly questioning its cruel destiny. In my quest for emblematic images, I recorded the documentary aspects of the tragedy in a quasi-systematic, serial manner. Using GPS data I reconstructed my journey from satellite photos taken at the same time and captured on Google Earth. This way, my preview research became reality.

This work is part of Datazone, a project that I began in North Korea and the United Arab Emirates, before moving on to Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Kabul, Afghanistan, and that will soon take me even further afield to such places as Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, Baghdad and Barnaul, the Russian city closest to the Altai Mountains. The lack and/or overabundance of images, as well as the broader question of representation, are central to my investigations at the crossroads of art, documentation and journalism. Without being obliged to respond, but simply gaze alone, I seek to provide food for thought on political and philosophical issues confronting the civilisations of the world today.

About the photographer


1959, Paris, France



Based in

Paris, France

About Philippe Chancel

Philippe Chancel works and lives in Paris and was introduced to photography at a young age. He took an economics degree at the University of Paris (Nanterre) followed by a postgraduate diploma in journalism at the CFPJ in Paris. Over the past twenty years his work has explored the complex, shifting and fertile territory where art, documentary and journalism meet. His series is a constantly evolving project, focusing on the status of images in the contemporary world.

His work has been widely exhibited, and featured in a number of publications including Regards d’artistes and Souvenirs, a series of portraits of capital cities (Paris, London, New York, Tokyo, Brussels) glimpsed through shop windows and North Korea which brought him international recognition. His photographs of Pyongyang were also exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, London as part of the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in 2007. Philippe Chancel’s book Workers Emirates, published by Bernard Chauveau, is his latest photo essay. The project was initially presented at the 53rd Venice Biennale in the Abu Dhabi pavilion and was part of the Dreamlands exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Paris in 2010 and has since toured the world. His work is included in many important public and private collections.

Philippe Chancel is currently working on a new long-term project entitled Datazone, which aims to explore the many-faceted aftermaths within the documentary field, revealing some of the world’s most singular lands which are either always in the news or, conversely, hardly ever figure on the media radar. This exploration has already taken him from Port-au-Prince to Kabul via Fukushima and Barnaul. Fukushima: The Irresistible Power of Nature is part of the Datazone project.