Following the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan, the sheer scale of the tsunami that smashed into northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011 was unprecedented. Coastal communities were devastated by waves, which at their highest reached forty meters above sea level, traveling up to ten km inland.
The fishing town of Otsuchi in the Iwate prefecture is probably the worst affected. Roughly ten percent of the population was killed or went missing and sixty percent of residential buildings sustained damaged. The mayor at the time and many municipal officials were killed in the ensuing tsunami, leaving Otsuchi’s administrative functions paralyzed.
I portrayed the Otsuchi inhabitants in the exact spot where their houses used to be, using long-exposure night shots for which they had to stay still for several minutes. These are b&w images tinted with colors retrieved from OtsuchiÂ´s old family photographs that were swept away by the tsunami.
When I arrived to Otsuchi I was faced with the view of a great plain full of pasture lands covering where the city had been before. Here is where I found a family photo album with all its images completely blurred; however, the colors had survived the water corrosion and were not lost. I realized that the people of Otsuchi, besides having lost their loved ones, relatives, homes and old way of life, had also lost their family photographs, that in some way forms part of their memories from the past. I started thinking about this idea and wondered how our memories interacts with our family photographs, how we could retrieve a lost memory from a destroyed photograph.”
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Alejandro Chaskielberg (Buenos Aires, 1977) is an award-winning photographer who works in the border between document and fiction. His vibrant use of color and dramatic worldview are influences by his background as Director of Photography and photojournalist.
He is graduated from the Argentina’s National Film and Audiovisual Art Institute and has received the Magnum Foundation’s Emerging Photographer Grant and the 2011 L’Iris D’or – Sony World Photographer of the Year award.
Alejandro has received the All Roads Award from the National Geographic Society of America, the Leopold Godowsky Jr. Award from the Boston University, the Talent Latent Award as part of Spain’s SCAN Festival, the POYI award for the best Latin American Portrait, and the Curriculum Cero award in Argentina. He also was named as one of PDN magazine’s 30 New and emerging photographers to watch.
Chaskielberg’s work was presented at the Brighton Biennial curated by Martin Parr and the 1st Biennale Online curated by Jan Hoet. He has exhibited at the Brazilian festival Paraty en Foco, at the Cardoba Photography Biennial in Argentina, El Ojo Salvaje in Paraguay, the New York Photo Festival, Nordic Light Festival in Norway and Noortherlicht Festival in Netherlands. His latest exhibition was hold at the 916 Gallery in Tokyo. The Statoil collection and the Museum of Latin American Art in California acquired his work.
Alejandro’s images has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Ojo de Pez, BBC London, CNN, Times Blog, RTE (Irland), The Guardian (UK), American Photo, The Saturday Times, Folha de San Pablo, La Reppublica (Italy), the Boston Globe, Fotoforum (Germany), Traveller (China), Phat Photo (Japan), The Japan Times, C-Photo Latin America.