Poets, painters, composers and film-makers have always found profound inspiration for their art when they confront loss and mourning and grief. In terrible times of natural and manmade disaster — like the earthquake, tusnami and nuclear crisis in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 — it sometimes becomes challenging to respond with fresh emotions or new artistic approaches to convey the deep and multilayered sense of sadness and loss.

But a unique and sensitive response to the aftermath of Fukushima by Argentinian photographer Alejandro Chaskielberg breaks through the surface clutter to create a series of memorial images that resonate with deep emotion.

Chaskielberg photographed the ruins, the survivors, and personal mementos that remained after the tsunami receded and people tried to regain some of their roots and belongings. But far from recording these things and facts as a documentary photographer, he introduced several fine-art approaches to his work.

With the help of local people, he found the former inhabitants of ruined homes and businesses around Otsuchi, and he posed them sitting the the barren remains of their former homes. He made long time-exposures at night, and used bright lights to “paint” his subjects and their surroundings with light. Then, finding fascination with the thousands of family photos that had been partially damaged by the flood waters, he “appropriated” the faded colors of the old snapshots, and re-created the look of the cracking and water damage from the snapshots, and used those effects as he worked and re-worked his own photos.

The results are visually and emotionally stunning.

We are grateful to the Tokyo International Photo Festival for providing this short video that show the artist at work, revealing his techniques.

— Jim Casper

This video shows the various processes that the photographer used to create these amazing images, including sampling faded colors from old water-damaged snapshots.