Pierpaolo Mittica - Fukushima No-Go Zone


I followed the Fukushima nuclear accident from the beginning till now, covering almost two years of the story. And here there is my story.

On march 11, 2011 one of the worst earthquake and Tsunami hit Japan and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, damaging its safety and cooling systems. In a few days the core of the nuclear power plants number 1, 2, 3 started melting down with the release on air and on the ocean of massive amount of radioactive radionuclides. The Japanese government created an evacuated area of 20 km radius around the nuclear power plant of Fukushima Daiichi. From 20th April the Japanese government refused the admittance to the “No-Go Zone” to everyone, especially to journalists and photographers. But… From the first days of July till now I went inside the No-Go Zone several times to document the situation.

Inside the exclusion zone the contamination has a “leopard skin” distribution, as well as outside, where there are places heavily contaminated up to 60 kilometers from the plant, including parts of the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama. And in this area 2 million people live at risk of future disease caused by continuous exposure to low doses of radiation through inhalation and ingestion of radioactive particles.

Empties cities are waiting for us, only some abandoned dogs are wandering, on desperate conditions, on the streets. At the time of the evacuation all the animals were abandoned. You could encounter some of cows enjoying total if ephemeral freedom after wandering away from farms. But most disgusting of all are the decomposing carcasses of hundreds of cows left unattended on farms. During the night several animal activists enter illegally inside the Exclusion Zone to rescue pets and other animals. Most of the houses are locked, convenience stores full of goods, but some have been robbed, hospitals raided for drugs and ATMs smashed and emptied. Stalkers started to rob inside the No-Go Zone, spreading radioactivity all around Japan. Many people, most of them elderly, are still hiding out inside the zone, some of them with no visible protection whatsoever. The most common refrain I heard was: “Why should we bother leaving? We are old, there is no way that such radiation exposure could do us any harm. If I have to die, let me die on my own futon.” One time per month residents could go back to their houses to rescue their personal things. They wander in their houses, shocked among their memories, memories lost forever.

Despite the massive contamination, life is still going on in the “No-Go Zone” and in that sort of “nuclear limbo” that stretches for 40 kilometers outside the exclusion zone, where people do not know whether to stay and learn to live with radiation, or go away forever: “Here in Minamisoma almost all the women and children, went away. The population is now more than halved. We do not know yet what to do, whether to stay where we always lived on or go away. Unlike the first months after the accident now there is a lot of work, due to the work of decontamination that the government started in April 2012. All the hotels are full. But we do not see a future anymore, mothers do not want to bring their children to grow up in a place where there are radiations. What future can have a country without children? For now, let’s move on, we live with radiation. We have grown accustomed, we do not think most of their presence. We have a feeling of resignation, this frightens us surely, the resignation takes you to accept, not to fight, but this eventually allows us to move forward, otherwise we become fools. “

The story is still ongoing and we will not know soon the real consequences of the second worst nuclear disaster ever happened.


Pierpaolo Mittica

Dr. Pierpaolo Mittica, Italian humanist photographer, is an internationally recognized photographer and he is recipient of numerous awards. Currently he is represented by Trolley, Great Britain. He received the Masters Program at CRAF diploma in conservation, technique and history of photography in 1990, studying with Charles – Henri Favrod, Naomi Rosenblum and Walter Rosenblum, who is his spiritual father in photography. He photographed in Italy, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Bosnia, Kosovo. Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Japan.

His photographs have been exhibited in Europe and the United States. In 2006 the work “Chernobyl the hidden legacy” was selected by the Chernobyl National Museum of Kiev (Ukraine) for the official exhibition for the twentieth anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. He is a speaker at numerous conferences in Italy, Europe, the U.S. and Japan, and his photos have been published in Italian and foreign newspapers and magazines, including L’Espresso, Alias of the Manifesto, Vogue Italy, Repubblica, Panorama, Il Sole 24 ore, PhotoMagazine, Daylight Magazine, Days Japan International, Asahi Shinbum, The Telegraph, The Guardian. In 2012 participates with his photos of Fukushima to the realization of the documentary film “Fukushame” by Alessandro Tesei (http://www.teatroprimostudio.it/project/fukushame).

Permanent collections:
Auer collection, Hermance (Switzerland) – Favrod collection, Saint Prex (Switzerland) – Rosenblum collection, New York (USA) – Fratelli Alinari Museum, Florence (Italy) – Chernobyl National Museum, Kiev (The Ukraine) – Fotografiska Museum, Stockholm (Sweden) – J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (USA).

“The Balkans, from Bosnia to Kosovo”, Interattiva, Italy 2000 – “Chernobyl la herencia oculta”, Ellago ediciones, Spain 2006 – “Chernobyl the hidden legacy”, Trolley LTD, Great Britain 2007 – “Cip is not Afraid”, CRO – CRAF, Italy 2010 – “Chernobyl 20 years after”, Kashiwa Shobo, Japan 2011

2006 FVG Award – 2009 Winner “EIUC Photography Competition 2009″ Visualizing Democracy – 2010 Official selection winner for the “Paducah Photo ’10 exhibition” at the Yeiser Art Center (USA) – 2010 Pictures of the Year International: “Chernobyl The hidden legacy” book finalist in the category “best photography book” – 2010  Honorable mention “Daylight/CDS Photo Awards” – 2010 Second Place “Photo Aid Contest 2010″ – 2010 Honorable Mention “The Robert Cornelius Awards 2010” – 2010 Highly commended “Digital Photographer of the Year 2010” – 2010 Highly commended “Environmental Photographer of the Year 2010” – 2010 Highly commended “FCCT/OnAsia PHOTO CONTEST 2010” – 2010 Second Place and 2 Gold Awards “European Professional Photographer of the Year Awards 2010″ Reportage category – 2010 finalist “Worldwide Photography Gala Awards 2010” – 2010 finalist “FEP European Photo Book Awards 2010” – 2010 Honorable mention “IPA International Photography Awards” category: “Editorial feature story” – 2010 Honorable mention “PX3 Aftermarth” category “photojournalism/feature stories” – 2011 finalist “KL International Photo Awards 2011” – 2011 official selection winner for the “Paducah Photo ’11 exhibition” at the Yeiser Art Center (USA) – 2011 Honorable mention “WPGA Black & White Competition” category “editorial Photojournalism” – 2011 Third Prize “6th Annual Black and White Spider Awards 2011″ – 2011 Gold medal in the category “book documentary” and Silver medal in the category “press feature story” at “PX3 prix de la photographie Paris 2011″ – 2011 Honorable Mention “IPA International Photography Awards 2011″ category “Photo Essay and Feature Story” – 3rd place “IPA International Photography Awards 2011″ category“Book Documentary Pro” – 2011 Silver Award “FEP European Professional Photographer of the Year 2011″ reportage category – 2011 Winner “WPGA Editorial Awards 2011″ – 2011 Honorable Mention “CIDPA Canadian International Digital Photography Awards 2011″ – 2011 Honorable mention “WPGA Pollux Awards 2011” category Humanitarian documentary – 2011 Winner “Outdoor Photographer of the year 2011″ Category “On the Streets” – 2011 3 bronze Awards “Open Competition 2011 International Loupe Awards” category “photojournalism” and “People and Portrait” – 2012 Second place “Eco Arts Awards 2012″ – 2012 Winner “NYPH’12 New York Photo Festival Invitational” – 2012 Winner of the official selection “Paducah Photo ’12 exhibition” at the Yeiser Art Center (USA) – 2012 Third Prize “Photo Annual Awards 2012″ category “motions series” – 2012 Honorable Mention “7th Annual Black and White Spider Awards 2012″ category photojournalism – 2012 Honorable Mention “PX3 Prix de la Photographie 2012″ category “Book documentary” – 2012 Honorable Mention “IPA International Photography Awards 2012″ category “photo essay and feature story” – 2012 Second place single image and portfolio “FotoWeekDC International Awards Competition” category “Photojournalism/social documentary” – 2012 Silver Award “International Loupe Awards 2012″ category photojournalism – 2012 Silver Award and Bronze Award “FEP European Professional Photographer of the Year Awards 2012″ reportage category  – 2013 Special Prize by Juries “Days Japan international Photojournalism Awards” – 2013 Honorable mention “Fotovisura Grant 2013″ – 2013 Honorable mention “Photo Annual Awards 2013″

Websites: www.pierpaolomittica.com