Black Tsunami – James Whitlow Delano at Foundry Workshop

An outsider’s memory is of little importance compared with the memories of the people of Tohoku, and of the rest of Japan, for they will not forget March 11th for centuries, if ever. But it is nevertheless important to share those Japanese memories, in however small a way, to maintain a sense of solidarity, of understanding, and above all of our human vulnerability in the face of nature’s force.  - James Whitlow Delano

Update: Funded! The Black Tsunami Kickstarter exceeded its funding goal, and we look forward to the book's printing later this year.

Presenting at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Chiang Mai, Thailand, instructor James Whitlow Delano showcases his work on the aftermath of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

These moving photographs document a wounded, yet resilient Japan in the aftermath of the compounding crises following the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. As then Prime Minister of Japan Naoto Kan described the situation,  “In the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan.”

While the earthquake was the fifth more powerful quake ever recorded, enough to slightly alter Earth’s tilt, its resultant tsunami caused far more damage in terms of life and property. The surging waters destroyed important infrastructure and washed away many coastal towns. In total, over 15,000 lives were lost, with thousands injured or missing.

In the midst of the horrific natural destruction, a nuclear accident of equal horror arose — most notably the reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daichi power plant. Towns near the reactors fell eerily quiet as hundreds of thousands of residents faced mandatory evacuation due to the radiation risks. The radioactive fallout from the meltdowns will persist as a problem for generations.

“I have lived in Japan for 20 years. It is my adopted home and now I have family there on my wife’s side. There was never any question about whether I would document this history changing tragedy. It is personal, affecting the country I live, affecting my food supply and potentially our health,” Delano says in an interview with Eric Kim.

His high-contrast black and white photos conjure a pogniant, silent and strange beauty. Images like a blossoming cherry tree in the midst of rubble evoke the Japanese tradition of mono no aware. Mono no aware roughly translates to an “awareness of impermanence,” that everything in the universe exists in transition.

As photographs, however, these images also stand as lasting legacy of both the power of nature and the dignity of the Japanese people.

Delano won the 2012 PX3 Award for Black Tsunami, an iPad book featuring these photographs, among many others. He successfully raised funds with Kickstarter to have the photographs memorialized in a physical book of the same name, to be released later in 2013.

Check out the video made by Delano and Noriko Hayashi to help illustrate the Kickstarter project:

Read more about James in our profile on him and learn more about Foundry and its instructors in our feature on the workshop. You can see more of James' photos on his website.