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Over There (in the UK)

May 24, 2004 at 3 PM

Gunkanjima, the Abandoned Island

For my money, urban decay is difficult to beat as a subject for photography. Japanese photographer Saiga Yuji proves it with a rousing series on Gunkanjima, a mostly artificial island that briefly held a coal-mining community off the coast of Japan.

The images are stunning, but what amazes me about pictures like these is not so much the skill of the photographer — though the images are marvellous — but rather the mere existence of the subject. As humans, we expend so much money, time and material to build civilization only then to abandon it, leaving great swathes of rusting destruction behind. The contrast, illustrated so grandly in these photographs, is disheartening.

The apocalyptic nature of Gukanjima brings to mind an article I read in Harper’s two years ago about the disappearance of the Aral Sea. The article is worth reading online, but it appears without any pictures, the visual impact of which do more justice to the story. NASA’s Earth Observatory has some really stunning satellite images showing dust over the Aral Sea, when “Rebirth” Island joined the mainland and a triptych of the shrinking surface.

The Aral Sea was once the world’s fourth-largest fresh-water lake, and is now rapidly becoming a desert, with all of the climactic ramifications one might expect upon the surrounding region — Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The story is a warning to everyone who underestimates how dramatically we affect the Earth by decisions made in the name of agriculture, business and the economy.

Comments

Those are awesome photos. Thanks.

Beerzie Yoink | May. 28, 2004 — 4 PM

Previously: The Many Wars of the Worlds

Subsequently: He’s A Slippery Devil

May 2004
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