Erasure & Creation

“We are a landscape of all that we have seen.” —Isamu Noguchi

During a recent sabbatical I spent over five months in Japan. As part of a sponsored project, I made several trips to the Tohoku area to document the progress made since the great earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster on the occasion of its seventh anniversary. I also spent over a month in Kyoto, where I traveled through the Kansai area to photograph Japanese gardens and partake in hanami, the festival of cherry blossoms. I originally produced two very separate bodies of work, but they ended up fitting together like two ends of a continuous spectrum. Some images chronicle slow recovery in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster that shattered over 20,000 lives almost instantly. Other images reveal generations of careful and disciplined grooming, manipulation, and mastery over the landscape. Together, they illustrate a natural disaster’s cataclysmic erasure of centuries of construction and progress, counterposed with the gardener’s cultivation to create order from a chaotic world.