US3A Catfish Sleeps - Tohoku, photographs in Japan 2009 - 2011: before and after the Great East Japan Earthquake
|Convener: N. Hovius|
Wed, 25 Apr, 17:30–19:00 / Room 11
A Catfish Sleeps and Tohoku
photographs in Japan, 2009 and 2011
Stephen Vaughan’s recent photographic research has emerged from his ongoing interest in landscapes at the edges of the Earth’s tectonic plates. He began making photographs in Japan in 2009, with an awareness of the country’s history of geological volatility and the potential for future catastrophe. Drawing upon geological, tectonic and seismic rupture probability maps, Vaughan’s photographic work explores Japan’s geo-cultural landscape and considers human responses to the complex tectonic systems that underpin this volcanic and seismically active region.
A Catfish Sleeps (2009) records a journey that corresponds with significant points on Japan’s tectonic map, where the Eurasian, Pacific, Philippine and Okhotsk plates meet. The photographs describe sites of volcanic and geothermal activity and areas with a high probability of seismic rupture or a history of seismic activity. The series also includes photographs made at the National Institute of Earth Science and Disaster Prevention (NIED), where ‘E-Defense’ (the world’s largest earthquake simulator) is used to test new developments in earthquake architecture.
Vaughan returned to Japan in spring 2011, intending to make a new series of images at the sites of an historical tsunami, caused by the Cascadiaearthquake in 1700. However, on March 11th 2011, the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Honshu. The movements of the Earth’s crust that Vaughan had previously imagined in his work suddenly became a visible reality. The places he had planned to photograph were now sites of a contemporary catastrophe, with immense devastation and terrible loss of life.
The purpose of the photographs, Vaughan says, was ‘to bear witness, and to create a detailed record of what I saw, acknowledging the indiscriminate and overwhelming violence of nature’. The images were made at sites on the coast of Iwate prefecture, including Kuwagasaki, Tsugaruishi and Otsuchi – the same places hit by the ‘Cascadia’ tsunami in 1700.
Stephen Vaughan is Lecturer in Photography at Plymouth University in the UK
He is a member of the Centre for Media, Art & Design Research (MADr), Photography Research Plymouth (PRP) and Land/Water and the Visual Arts Research Group
Stephen’s work is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery, London