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Masamichi Kagaya

A boot and a glove. A pair of scissors, a football. A snake and a fish. Leaves on a branch. Mottled in black and white. Recognisable but alienating at the same time, like X-rays. What are we looking at? What do we see?

The invisible made visible

We are looking at radioactive contamination shown in black stains. The photographed objects come from the abandoned and forbidden area around the nuclear power plant of Fukushima, where a nuclear disaster took place in the spring of 2011. Photographer Masamichi Kagaya (Japan, 1981) makes the invisible visible.

Autoradiograph – Works of Nuclear God

Kagaya started looking for a way to visualize radiation using contaminated samples from the nuclear disaster. Armed with a geigercounter and protective clothing Kagaya collects objects, plants and animals in nature and abandoned buildings. He determines to what extent they are infected, with technology and special devices, which are normally only used for research. For this Kagaya works together with Satoshi Mori (Professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo) capturing images of radioactive contamination from plants after the nuclear accident. Kagaya and Mori have captured more than 300 images in the past years. The technology used is called ‘autoradiograph’. It makes a visual representation of radioactive contamination. The more stains, the more radiation. Although the infection can also be expressed in figures, the picture tells us much more. There are also ordinary photographs of the objects: these images look innocent. But in addition to the autoradiographs the viewer knows better.

Multi media project

Japan has experience with nuclear catastrophes: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Bikini and recently Fukushima. Kagaya makes the contamination visible. Besides a book there’s a website (www.autoradiograph.org), whereon since 2016 3D-images of contaminated objects can be studied. And an application for smartphone and tablet has recently been developed. Kagaya started his project in 2012 and it is still in progress. The long lifetime of radioactive contamination makes this possible. Kagaya continues to feed the debate on nuclear energy by recalling these disturbing images of the grim consequences of a nuclear disaster.

About Masamichi Kagaya

Kagaya attained a technical study at Waseda University in Tokyo in Japan, followed by a photography study at Spéos Photography School Paris (2008/2009). In 2017 he won the Fujifilm Award in Kyotographie and received a Honorary Prix Ars Electronica. That same year he won the Special Jury Award at Lianzhou photo 2017. Watch the video below for more information on Kagaya’s work.