Dominic Nahr, a photojournalist with Magnum Photos, feels even more horrified in Fukushima Prefecture than he does in such conflict-ravaged countries as East Timor or Somalia.
Still, the 30-year-old keeps returning to the radiation-hobbled prefecture to take shots of residents and former workers at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, which was crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
“It is an important theme for human beings,” Nahr said in a recent interview in Tokyo.
Braving the possibility of high radiation exposure, Nahr has documented the struggles of people in Fukushima for both Japanese and overseas media.
Shortly after the quake struck off the coast of Tohoku on March 11, 2011, Nahr came to Japan for the first time as a contract photographer for Time magazine.
He said he was speechless at the enormity of the consequences brought on by the tsunami when he entered the coastal city of Natori in Miyagi Prefecture.
The following month, Nahr visited Minamisoma in Fukushima. There, about 20 km from the No. 1 plant, Nahr witnessed something he had never seen before during his career.
“It looked calm, but you could see fear in their faces,” Nahr said. “I was shocked.”
Most of the over 70,000 Minamisoma residents were forced to evacuate immediately after the nuclear disaster started. As of mid-April, only half had returned to their homes, with the others still in temporary housing or rented accommodations inside or outside the city, according to city government data.
The tragedy, he said, appears to have been the result of people becoming greedy to generate energy and pursue economic development.
The Swiss-born, Hong Kong-raised photographer, who later joined Magnum Photos, an international photographic cooperative, flies to Fukushima from Nairobi, where he currently resides, whenever he can.
Three years after the start of the crisis, “people in Fukushima look calm but are more depressed, accepting their situation,” he said.
Nahr said what currently worries him is that the Japanese people seem to have failed to engage in candid discussions about Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s man-made disaster.
People living in Tokyo seemingly “don’t want to talk about Fukushima,” he said, stressing that the country as a whole should engage in serious discussions on whether nuclear power plants are truly rational.