Review: Reception for In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11

Event: Members’ reception of In the Wake, a photography exhibit commemorating the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, organized by The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston @ The Japan Society.


Bottom line: It’s uncanny to imagine the amount of devastation the 3/11 earthquake caused when it struck Japan on that fateful day. In the Wake attempts to bring the viewer in perspective with the awesome impact of a killer tsunami. An impressive exhibit but I’d like to have seen a bit more of a people involved and the rebuilding efforts.


The reception added a slight cheerful note

Review: “Where to begin?” is all I could think of when looking at images of the flattened urban landscapes and piles of debris. The curators of the exhibit had been very mindful to show the extent to which the tsunami had completely wiped out villages in the Sendai region turning it into wasteland.


The photo that stood in my mind was of an ostrich, which escaped from a local farm, wandered the empty streets of an abandoned city in search of food.


One of the more poignant parts of the exhibit was the U-shaped wall of abandoned family photographs, many of which were damaged during the tsunami.


Families lost

What I had mistook for ceramic tiles, turned out that that I was staring at wall of unidentifiable family memories. It pained me to think of the those who perished or lost their homes and livelihoods.

I wondered what became of these families. If they had survived, were they able to go back or did they settle elsewhere?


The only criticisms I had is that I would have liked to see a bit more about the people who had been affected by this tragedy and of course the efforts to rebuild the area.  Although enjoyable, the latter expo bit of fetish photography and abstract shots honestly seemed slightly out of place with the theme of 3/11.

A bit of fetish relief?

Er, a bit of fetish relief?

Also to my suprise, In the Wake had little on the subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima power plant, and how this has changed Japanese attitudes about energy production and consumption. Thinking about how the rice, sake and fishing industries have suffered because of radioactive contamination, I would have thought that this was also an important part of the 3/11 tragedy.