Things Left Behind
Moving collection of images at Life magazine of things left behind in the Japanese tsunami.
I didn’t take many images of these items like the one above. I should have of course but somehow it felt voyeuristic. Houses were upturned, ripped opened and even upside down in many of the towns and villages we visited and I could easily find among them the remains of people’s lives now abandoned or lost. But these scraps of life stuck in the mud, washed far from their owners, seems even sadder than the broken windows of mud filled rooms I peered inside. Of course children’s toys pull at heartstrings and this image is more than a cliche, but my sons love such heroes and it is one I had to take. I saw no ultraman toys and think it would have made me cry if I had. I did see telephones, the name and number written there on the dial, I saw a toy kangaroo, the same as one my eldest son has, and that made me pause a while. I saw photos, purses, letters and books. I saw ornaments, mementoes of happier times in Hawaii or elsewhere just as the Life gallery above shows.
The most powerful thing I saw however was some pornography, imported and unpixalated, blond-haired centre-spreads now mud soaked and useless. It was funny almost but such remnants bring to life the people who will haunt these places for a long time yet. Even as survivors picked through the mud to salvage any thing from their time before the tsunami hit it struck me that this magazine was someone’s hidden treasure; a young man perhaps whose secret is still safe, his anonymity preserved in the detritus of the valley where is magazine sits now with the pictures running and the paper decaying. The sign of a life full of hormones and hopes. Where he lived I don’t know. If he still lives, I don’t know.