Pin It
Disposable Lives
Fukushima, Riku. Tokyo,Courtesy Dan Bailey

Documenting a post-nuclear Japan

Almost five years on from Fukushima and seven decades after Hiroshima, one photographer uses disposable cameras to capture contemporary Japan

“This summer I flew back from a trip to Europe on 6 August, 70 years to the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. I read an essay written by John Hersey that documented what happened on that day and the aftermath. I wanted to see the city for myself, and to share that with other people”. Using disposable cameras, photographer Dan Bailey captures the transient nature of beauty and life paramount to Japanese culture in his Disposable Lives photo project. Through his contrasting images ranging from Harajuku Club kids to traditional festivals, Tokyo Suburbs to the Japanese countryside, Bailey builds a unique portrait of contemporary Japan.

One of the most poignant collections taken from Disposable Lives documents two festivals; the Taimatsu Akashi Fire Festival in Fukushima and the Tamatori Festival in Hiroshima. The nuclear disasters that took place in these two prefectures are indelibly inked onto Japanese history and, while separated by a distance of time, their shared nuclear history often means they are seen through a mutual radioactive prism.“I wanted to connect the two prefectures beyond the mass destruction and radioactive fallout they are associated with and introduce new images with which to connect these beautiful, multi-faceted prefectures,” says Bailey.

By capturing the festivals and the youth that continue to celebrate them today, Bailey documents the immortal yet ever-changing natures of Fukushima and Hiroshima. On the fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster (12 March) and 70 years (6 August) after Hiroshima, the photos of these timeless, centuries-old festivals act as a counterpoint to the beauty of the passing moment and the hope of renewal.