Critical Mass Top 50, 2011

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Stephen Vaughan

www.stephenvaughan.co.uk


Oniyama Jigoku (Monster Mountain Hell), Beppu, Kyushu, Japan. 2009

'E-Defense' (the World's Largest Earthquake Simulator), Kobe, Japan. 2009

Tokyo Sky Tree, 11 March 2011 (after the Tohoku Earthquake)

Sumidagawa, Tokyo, 15 March 2011 (after the Tohoku Earthquake)

Shinjuku Station, Tokyo, 14 March 2011 (after the Tohoku Earthquake)

Sea Wall, Otsuchi, Iwate, Japan. 2011

Kamaishi, Iwate, Japan. 2011

Otsuchi, Iwate, Japan. 2011

Kamaishi, Iwate, Japan. 2011

Otsuchi, Iwate, Japan. 2011
Stephen Vaughan

'A Catfish Sleeps' examines the geo-cultural landscape of Japan and considers human responses to the country's complex tectonic geology. In 2009, I made a series of photographs at strategic points on Japan's tectonic map – at sites of volcanic, geothermal and potential seismic activity, as well as at Disaster Prevention and Earthquake Research facilities. The series emerged from an understanding of the tectonic histories and probabilities that affect the region. In c.1700 an enormous maginitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the north-west coast of America, and recent research has revealed a number of historical Japanese texts describing a resulting tsunami on the north-eastern coast of Japan. My intention when I returned to Japan in spring 2011 was to extend 'A Catfish Sleeps' by making photographs at the sites of this historical tsunami, in Iwate prefecture. However, on 11 March, the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck. The movements of the Earth’s crust that I had been imagining in my work had suddenly become a terrifying reality. 28,000 people lost their lives in the devastating tsunami that followed. My response to these events was driven by the simple need to bear witness and to record what had happened. The terrible inevitability of such an event was central to my original concerns. I continued to make images in Tokyo, where the signs of the earthquake were largely invisible – on the street, inside the Tokyo Stock Exchange, and at disrupted transport hubs. I subsequently made an extended body of work – as I'd originally intended – on the coast of Iwate prefecture, which had been totally destroyed by the tsunami. I wanted to give an indication of the extent of its destruction and the affect on the lives of thousands of people who had lost their homes and families. The photographs I made of Miyako, Otsuchi and Kamaishi only represent a fragment of this immense damage. The scale of the catastrophe is beyond anything I had imagined or that I could describe.