Nigel J Haworth: ‘Shattered Coast’

Nocturnal Anxieties

Nigel Haworth’s Shattered Coast (2012) series documents the remains of the seaside towns of Usuiso and Toyoma in Fukushima prefecture that were devastated by the largest earthquake recorded in Japan and the subsequent tsunami in March 2011. Haworth visited the towns some time after the cleanup operations, and while many of the buildings appear to be on the point of collapse, much of the surrounding debris has been cleared away. Photography of the ‘aftermath’ is almost as old as the medium and this kind of “late photography” has been criticised as a means of memorializing particularly traumatic historical moments and events. Hans-Christian Schink’s project, Tohoku, which similarly records the effects of the tsunami, follows in this vein both stylistically and methodically.

Although there can be no doubt that Haworth’s images reveal the extent of the damage, by removing himself from the more forensic ‘straight’ documentary approach that is typical of “late photography” and flirting with the pictorial [a visual comparisons to Edward Steichen’s 1904 moonlit pond springs to mind], we are presented with a new take on the aftermath. Rather than dwelling on the sublime force of the tsunami and the visceral extent of the damage to property, Haworth perhaps (and unexpectedly) brings more prosaic questions to the fore: what’s going to happen now to these cleared, empty spaces? To what extent the the intrastructure and buildings be restored is aparently in question.

Haworth’s decision to photograph these locations at twilight not only gives them an atmospheric visual quality, but the strategy also takes these places beyond their usual appearance; or at least how they might appear to the naked eye.  We are forced to scrutinise them in – literally – a new light, with a different sobriety. The sense of unease that these representations exude perhaps reflects an idea asserted by Diego Mormorio, that we have a subconscious, primordial anxiety that after nightfall the sun may fail to rise again in the morning [1]. Haworth’s twilight hues also serve to remind us of the omnipresent lunar/tidal cycles, which are further referenced by the bleeding sphere of the moon at intervals throughout the series. We are invited to consider that interspersed between the predictable ebb and flow of these cycles we will have to deal with anomalies from time to time that are way beyond our control.

[1] See his essay ‘Photographs of the Nightfall’ in Mariniello, R. (2001) Napoli veduta immaginaria. Milan: Motto edizioni.

 

www.nigeljhaworth.com

Life-guard platform, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Life-guard platform, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Mirror at blind junction and car bumper, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Mirror at blind junction and car bumper, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Black house and orange moonlight, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Black house and orange moonlight, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Foundations, sea wall and remains of life-guard platform, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Foundations, sea wall and remains of life-guard platform, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Tannoy used to announce tsunami warnings, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Tannoy used to announce tsunami warnings, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

House on coast road, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

House on coast road, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Remains of residential area, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Remains of residential area, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Open space left after bulldozers had cleared debris and foundations, Usuiso Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Open space left after bulldozers had cleared debris and foundations, Usuiso Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Area after debris cleared, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Area after debris cleared, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Remains houses on residential street, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Remains houses on residential street, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Remains houses on residential street, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Remains houses on residential street, Usuiso, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Abandoned house with tsunami damage, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Abandoned house with tsunami damage, Toyoma, Fukushima © Nigel J Haworth. Courtesy of the artist.

Advertisements