Seeing double: Visibility and legibility in photography of 3-11

Christine L. Marran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Tomohiko Kano's photograph of the powerful wave that swept over the seawall in the town of Miyako, Japan, captures the consequences of overengineering and hyperindustrialization on Japan's coasts. The photograph's depiction of the ocean water, which overwhelmed Japan's seawall-fortified shoreline and inundated 561 square kilometers of coastline, is from a relatively high angle, with the wave churning and frothing below the eye line. In significant contrast to Kano's photography of spectacle, Yuriko Nakao's photographs of 3-11 depict environmental contaminants and danger but only those nefariously invisible to the naked eye. She has taken dozens of photographs of the testing of objects, food, and human bodies for ionizing radiation that eludes photographic capture. One of Nakao's most widely circulated photographs, featured among National Geographic's 'Top 20' photos of 3-11, depicts a quarantined daughter standing behind glass while her mother and an inquisitive dog seek information about her current medical status and when she might be released.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-306
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


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