‘Black Tsunami’ is a book of photography marking the one year anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

In a series of 80 images, James Whitlow Delano captures the towns and lives that were destroyed by the giant wall of water that swept through them in March 2011.

The interactive iBook begins with a short video clip of the moment the tsunami hit, which cleverly sets the scene for the still images of the aftermath. By recreating that sense of panic and fear for what is to come, and then presenting those fears in their sad reality, Delano  intensifies the impact of his photography.

The images bring home the true scale of the disaster in terms of gravity but also actual physical size. The vastness of the debris is a major focus.

Despite having lived in Japan for a number of years, it feels as though you are looking through the eyes of an outside visitor, a passer by, a witness.

Yet, Delano’s apparent detachment is both effective and appropriate to the subject. After all, the landscapes he presents are now as alien to those who once lived there as any far flung planet would be.

There is little to ’wow’ in terms of incredible moments captured, or stunning composition. Yet, at the same time, this book isn’t about making a tragedy look pretty. The truth of this now epic clear-up task is ugly and arduously mundane, and has the exact sense of hopelessness and desolation that Delano portrays.

The treatment of the photographs however, does come across as over-produced. Some are very nearly beyond recognition which, unfortunately, does take away from the sense of rawness that the images otherwise possess.

The book ends with an interesting video interview with Delano himself, in which he gives his account of the event and the months that followed.

You can download ’Black Tsunami’ from the iBook Store by clicking here.

Reviewed by Francesca Bassenger, Photography © James Whitlow Delano.


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