Monday, 8 August 2011

TOHOKU 2011

Tonight I'll go to the opening of the new exhibition at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan of the work of member Martin Hladik, "TOHOKU 2011". Martin has made several extensive trips to Tohoku after the quake, tsunami and nuclear events. His work leeches some colour from the photos while allowing the occasional standout colour. With photo-manipulation filter additions, he isolates and focuses on elements of the photos. It's a strong effect, which with the time spent in the area and the conversations with his subjects adds an extra impact.

There's the weary tread of two older people rescuing any useful objects from their house; the orphans ritually transferring their mothers' bones after her cremation; tired firefighters standing on rubble waiting for police to remove a body they have discovered; a woman holding a ball of wool – practically the only useful thing she found in the wreckage of her house. But there's "positive" photos as time goes by since the initial events: the opening of fuel "station" (oil drums); a girl playing football; joggers running past a grounded ship.

I designed a brochure for the exhibition. My concern was to balance reality with presentation, to foreground the imagery and its artistic approach while not denying the reality its obvious, equal or more important status overall. I made a cover with distressed text after considering a fine and thinner font. The latter seemed to promote an "art" and a "niceness" which didn't compare with the content, yet the former ran a risk of a kind of horror film over-dramatisation. I played down the "damage" to the font, but preferred to go with that distressed look – there is more horror than calm reflection in the subject. Pictures were as big as possible on each page, but allowed for a caption which could at least place the people in the photo in a slightly more detailed context. And there's a grey background – white looked to "exhibition-y", black too funereal.

A small brochure, but it seemed important to give due respect in some small way via the design to both the images and the people in them.

Martin has set up a fund for two orphans, one of whom appears in a photo he took. A way of donating is online at his photographic site for the work, www.tohoku2011.com

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