Japan: The problems and pleasure of publishing the horrors of the 3/11 tsunami

In Japan, we are reminded almost daily about the 3/11 disaster by the mainstream media. The frequency, quality and tone of these reports is a hugely problematic issue for anyone who wishes to distinguish between national identity and natural disaster. This is the topic of Gennifer S. Weisenfeld’s historical, but wholly relevant book “Imaging Disaster: Tokyo and the Visual Culture of Japan’s Great Earthquake of 1923,” which acts as an incisive reminder that our reactions to trauma are configured by society and politics.

This is one issue among many when it comes to analyzing photo books that have 3/11 as their subject. Another is that the variety of publications means we are obliged to view the event in categorically different ways — photographs can be collections of anything from camera phone snapshots to expensive large-format prints.