2011, Oct 22
ROLLS TOHOKU, updated with photos from August

ROLLS TOHOKU has been updated with new photos, taken over five days in August. It’s still the only thing worth looking at besides Hatakeyama’s show. Here are some of the photos that stood out to me from this update.

Anonymous woman in Shizukawa:





Kokoa, a girl in Watanoha:











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3/11 Earthquake, ROLLS TOHOKU

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2011, Oct 19
Hatakeyama’s Post-3/11 Photos at Syabi

A couple of weeks ago I saw Naoya Hatakeyama’s latest exhibit, “Natural Stories,” at Tokyo’s Metropolitan Photography Museum. Hatakeyama is from Rikuzen-Takada, one of the villages which was devastated by the tsunami this March. I don’t have the time or space here to explain why these photos were so great, but along with ROLLS TOHOKU, they are the only photographs taken of post-3/11 destruction I’ve seen so far which are “good,” strange as it is to use that word here.

With Hatakeyama’s blessing, I took some cell phone shots of the exhibit, but I don’t think it makes any sense to post them here. If you’re in Tokyo, you should go, the exhibit is up through December 4. I think it’s going to travel after that, first to Amsterdam and then maybe eventually San Francisco. I’ll try to keep an eye on the work and see if a book comes out, though I have a feeling that will not happen anytime soon.


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3/11 Earthquake, Naoya Hatakeyama, ROLLS TOHOKU, Tokyo Metropolitan Photography Museum

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2011, Oct 14
Pharrell Williams x Rolls Tohoku (really)

I found this link to a 5 part video series hosted by Pharrell, called “Tokyo Rising.” It’s about how the “creative class” (their words not mine!) is on the rebound after 3/11. For maybe obvious reasons, I was pretty skeptical. Could Pharrell really say something meaningful?

As it turns out, yeah. Well, not actually, but that’s not the point. He (or really his production team, but whatever) clearly got in touch with a lot of really good people, and gave them a platform to speak. The founder of Shiroto no Ran, a used furniture store/radical protest group, is featured pretty prominently, but beyond that he also checked out an installation of the Rolls Tohoku project! I didn’t even know about the exhibit myself… damn, scooped by Pharrell in my own backyard.


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2011, Sep 07
ROLLS Tohoku in Stockholm

This summer, Stockholm’s Fotografiska exhibited the ROLLS TOHOKU project. I don’t want to bore you any more with why I think these photos are by far the “best” to come out of the tsunami so far, I’ll just say that my opinion hasn’t changed.

I think the contact sheet style works well here, to convey as much information as possible. (It also gets the curators out of having to make aesthetic choices, which is a good thing.) The spotlighting seems a little too dramatic, but whatever, ROLLS in Europe yall. I wonder what people thought of it.

This exhibit was coordinated by Marc Feustel of eyecurious fame. It was a proper internet effort though: John Sypal posted the link to ROLLS on Facebook after seeing it on Tumblr, then I emailed it to Marc, who sweet talked the Swedes into making the show happen. Magic.

I’ll continue to try to find out what’s happening with ROLLS and update here if there’s anything.

The following photos are © Michael Björnlycke:


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Exhibits outside of Japan, ROLLS TOHOKU

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2011, Jun 15
ROLLS Update

Photo taken by Harumi Onodera, an adult in Kesennuma, around May 2011

It’s just about three months on from the earthquake and tsunami, which means that the situation in Tohoku is now well outside of the Western news cycle. Things here in Tokyo also appear to be normal, but this is not a city where you can overhear people’s feelings walking down the street. Everyone knows that things won’t be the same again.

There are a couple of new things to report about the ROLLS TOHOKU project, which I still think has provided some of the best images to come out of this disaster. For one thing, there’s an entirely new set of images online, taken about two months after the tsunami hit. The site is also a bit more user-friendly now; images load much faster and you can use the arrow keys to flip through the slideshows.

Finally, there’s some exciting news for people in Europe, which is that the entire ROLLS project will be exhibited this summer at Fotografiska, Stockholm’s photography museum. The dates are July 7 – August 28. The exhibit is coordinated by Marc Feustel, who also wrote an article about ROLLS which you can read in the recent edition of Foam. or on his blog.


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3/11 Earthquake, ROLLS TOHOKU

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2011, Apr 16
Children’s photos of Ishinomaki from ROLLS TOHOKU

ROLLS TOHOKU is basically the best collection of images to surface from Tohoku, the area of Japan that has been damaged by the tsunami. The concept of the ROLLS project is simple: give people in these areas disposable cameras, have them shoot over the course of a few days, show the unedited results online. In taking a photo of something tragic there’s always the possibility of just turning it into an easily consumable aesthetic object. That’s not at all the case here though. I want to thank the guy who thought of this project, not because I think it’s going to produce the next wave of photo stars but because it is pleasant to see something real.

What’s really excellent about this project is that it tells you if the photographer is an adult or child, and also where they are currently living. I was particularly struck by photos taken by a few different children around Watanoha Elementary School, near Ishinomaki (Google Map here).

There’s a whole range of emotions here, which sometimes are a bit surprising. We can see some friends running around and making faces for the camera in front of piles of debris which have been piled up in the schoolyard. On the one hand I think: kids are kids, put a camera in front of a 12-year-old and they’re damn well going to make a funny face. Still, it seems like they are well aware of what’s happening, so maybe they are just making the best of the situation, “putting one foot in front of the other” and getting on with their lives. In any case, this is essential viewing.

I’ve updated my earlier post with links related to the earthquake, and will continue to add relevant projects as they show up.

Kaho Imai:

Mizuki Atsumi:

Keiya Ustumi:


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3/11 Earthquake, ROLLS TOHOKU

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