Recent Collections Acquisition: Shimpei Takeda

Shimpei Takeda, Trace #7, Nihonmatsu Castle, 2012. Courtesy the artist.

Thanks to the generosity of the ICP Acquisitions Committee, ICP recently purchased six prints by photographer Shimpei Takeda, whose work is currently being exhibited in the ICP Triennial. Takeda was born 40 miles from the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 2011. An earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku, Japan, caused a tsunami that resulted in the deaths of 20,000 people and disabled the power supply and cooling systems of three nuclear reactors. More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes because of concerns about radiation poisoning.

Takeda responded to the catastrophe with Trace—cameraless records of radioactive contamination, in which he exposed contaminated soil from 12 locations in five different prefectures of northern Japan to photo-sensitive materials. The resulting autoradiographs, which appear to document solar systems, galaxies, or segments of star-strewn sky, are in fact impressions of the radiation emitted by contaminated particles of dirt.

In a note on his website discussing his fond memories of Fukushima, Takeda admits: “I wish I didn’t have to face these prints.” We might have the same wish, but these small, oddly beautiful images force us to consider the consequences of nuclear power on an intimate scale and in a tangible way.