Thursday, May 09, 2013

“So many mothers against nuclear energy!”–And For It, Too.

A photographer named Nonoko Kameyama decided to take pictures of mothers (with their children) who are against reopening the nuclear facilities in Japan.

Kameyama is unquestionably moved to use her craft to support her views.

In 2006 I took a break and travelled to Nepal.  That was a turning point for me - my passion came back right away. I was taking pictures - capturing the joy on the faces of the people in Nepal; it was extraordinary.

But at the same time I was confronted by the poverty of people and the problems that they were facing, so I started to wonder what I could do. When I came back to Japan I joined two groups, one that tries to rescue children, Stop Child Trafficking, and the other group which promotes fair trade between Japan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. They asked me to help them make a catalogue to sell Fair Trade goods.  This is the first time I got connected with a social cause. 

I wonder if she also took pictures of the poverty in Nepal to support her social effort – I’m going to assume she did, but it’s curious she doesn’t say so. As we’ll see, she likes to take pictures of happy people. In any event, I can’t imagine anyone questioning the value of what she did as a response to her Nepal visit.

Then the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened and she decided she did not want the nuclear facilities in Japan to reopen.

I started taking pictures of these mothers, and joining demonstrations. One after another I kept photographing these mothers - suddenly I realized that I had taken photos of 100 mothers. So many mothers against nuclear energy!  To me, a hundred is like every mother. A hundred is a symbol because, no matter where they live - Fukushima or Tokyo, or Nepal, or India - mothers would protect their children.

Again, one cannot doubt her sincerity or desire to portray that some who are against nuclear energy are women and some of those women have children. Such is the case with Women in Nuclear, too, I daresay, and if the group hired a good photographer such as Kameyama to take pictures of them and their children, they would look almost precisely like the women she did photograph – that is to say, varied and interesting.

I have to admit that at the beginning I was worried that if I made a book there would be lots of stern, angry, and depressed faces. I was afraid that I might end up with a depressing book; but soon I realized that mothers with children are always joyful, and there’s a dignity and a beauty. They are soft, but strong and powerful.  This tenderness, love, and compassion will open people’s hearts.

Let’s let this pass. There are a lot of reasons mother are not “always joyful” and genuinely fretful for their children. But wait – open people’s hearts to what?

What I can do is connect with other mothers and men too, through photography; and build a movement for renewable energy which is safe for our children.

That’s a pretty specific goal for a book of lovely photographs of mothers and their children. If Kameyama does a good job, one might want the book for its aesthetic qualities. A book of Women in Nuclear – maybe of Japan’s branch of the organization - would probably include text explaining why the participants value their work, what they think of nuclear energy, what their hopes are for their own and their children’s futures. Voices and thoughts. Maybe we could include some women who are not mothers, though I guess we want to stay in parallel with the rival project.

Would it be more likely to change minds than Kameyama’s project? Probably not, but it would show that women have professional and industrial aspirations, perhaps a little more unexpected than showing them exclusively in their maternal role and described as fearful. Even Kameyana’s project could show and tell more.

Here are some of Kameyama’s photographs – they are quite lovely – some include non-explicit nudity, so take that into account.

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