Beachcombing With John

 

beachcomb [beach′comb′] (bēch′kōm′) v. - an activity that consists of an individual “combing” (or searching) the beach and the intertidal zone, looking for things of value, interest or utility.

ビーチコーミング (Beach-combing)とは、海岸などに打ち上げられた漂着物を収集の対象にしたり観察しながら散策すること。

作品について:

阪神大震災の激しい揺れが街や人々の人生を破壊した日、私は母と半壊した実家にいた。父は出張中で、姉弟も別の街に住んでいた。その後、震災について話す時、家族の中でも「その場にいた者」と「いなかった者」では、何かが決定的に違っていると感じていた。 その16年後東日本大震災が起きた時、私はシンガポールに住んでおり、今度は自分が「その場にいなかった者」となった。震災後、沢山の人が被災地に入り被害の様子をそれぞれのやり方で撮影をしていた。私自身もたずねたものの、「その場にいなかった自分」に何が撮れるのか分からなかった。ただ、「被災者」という立場の者がどんどん上書きされていく日本の現実の中で、かつて被災者だった者として「何らかの形で『震災』を撮れたら…」という気持ちを持っていた。

しばらくして、アメリカ西海岸に津波によって流された様々なものが漂着していること、それらを集めている男性がいることを知った。「被災地に入って撮るのではなく、外から震災を撮ること」なら自分に出来るかもしれないという思いが湧いて来た。タイトルのBeachcombingとは浜辺に打ち寄せられた様々なものを拾い集めるアクティビティである。

 

 ある時突然津波によって海中に引きずりこまれ、海流に乗り辿り着いたモノ達はどんな姿をしているのだろう…

 それらがいつ到着するのかと、太平洋の向こう側で待っていたというその男性はどんな人物なのだろう…

思いをめぐらせながらその小さな海辺の町を訪れたが、実際にそこで目にしたものは私の想像を超えていた。ジョンという名前のこの男性(本職は水道屋さん)は40年間Beachcombingを趣味にしており、膨大な数のコレクションの中で津波の漂流物はごく一部だった。彼から、漂流物の漂着の法則、海流、潮の満ち引き、浜辺についてなどを教えてもらった。「この人はbeachcombingで世界を見ているんだな」と感じた。彼と一緒に過ごした時間の中で震災についてだけでなく他のコトガラについても色々と考えるようになった。

帰国後すぐに写真集の作成に取りかかった。編集作業などで物理的に手を動かしているうちに、以前アメリカ西海岸に長く住んでいた時のことを思い出した。住んでいた部屋の窓からは海が大きく見え、その海を眺めて「この海の向こうは日本なのだな」と思っていた感覚が蘇って来た。アメリカと日本の間に横たわる距離感や自身が行ったり来たりする感覚をずっと身体の内に抱え込んでいたことに気が付いた。そのうちに私自身が漂流物のように思えて来た。

この数年私は「写真とは何か」「自分はどんな写真を撮りたいのか」と問いかけながら模索してきた。長く撮っている分だけ「写真にまつわる」悩みは一層深く随分と心細かった。そういう意味でも私は漂流してきたのかもしれない。問いかけたものはもうどこかに辿り着いただろうか、いつかたどり着くだろうか。

 

今日もあの美しい浜辺でバギーを乗り回し、漂流物を拾い続けているジョンのことを思うと、なんだか勇気が湧いてくる。何かが私のお腹の底をくすぐって、明るい気持ちになる。本当の癒し、希望というのはそういうものなのかもしれないと思う。そして今後も撮影という行為を続けるならば「希望の物語だと感じる写真」を撮りたい。そういうものは大抵世界のどこかにひっそりと隠れているから、それを丁寧に探し出してきて、出来るだけシンプルに、そしてありのままに撮る事で語る必然性が増してくる。そんな写真表現を模索したい…。

 

悲劇の後にも、時が過ぎ、潮は動き、再び日が射し、海の向こうで拾い上げる人がいる。それにカメラを向ける事が私にとって大切だったのだと気付いて、そう思った。

 

「Beachcombing with John」について

アバロス村野敦子

2016年2月

 

About "Beachcombing With John":

 

Back in 1995, the big earthquake that hit Kobe, also known as the Hanshin Daishinsai, had laid across its path, the destruction of many buildings, and more importantly, the loss of many lives. I vividly remember that I was at home with my mother, and looking around at our home, most of which had collapsed due to the intense tremors. I also remember that my father was out of town and my siblings were living in difference cities. Remembering the impact the earthquake has left on me, I became aware of the crucial difference between myself, a person who was experiencing the calamity first-hand, and the people who weren’t there, even people who are family. This difference in perspective left a lasting impression on me, and somehow I was interested in it…

 

It was 16 years later, in 2011, when another devastating earthquake hit, and this time it was in the Tohoku area, northern part of Japan. The intensity of this earthquake and its location also caused one of the biggest Tsunami to hit Japan. I was living in Singapore when the disaster happened, and I found myself on the other side of the spectrum, being a person who was not experiencing the calamity first-hand. I remember that I was sitting in front of my TV, just watching, trying to absorb the situation. I remember that I must have continued to watch the news as it unfolded for 2 weeks straight… 

 

I recall that before and after the disaster settled down, many photographers went to the Tohoku area to photograph the disaster-stricken areas. It was only after several years that I myself, had the chance to visit the same areas. During my visit, I tried to photograph what I have seen, but I was almost not able to; not because there was not much to photograph, but because I simply did not know how I could/ should capture and express what I saw and felt. I was hoping to find the right way for me to photograph it as a person who experienced such a disaster before – as a person who would be longing to take the image of how someone’s, reality or way of life, can easily be “overwritten” whenever a disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami, happens in my country, Japan.

 

After a while, I heard that many items that get washed ashore in the United States’ Pacific coast, were believed to be part of the tsunami debris from the 2011 earthquake in Japan. I also heard that there was someone in the USA who has spent time collecting the tsunami debris that got washed up on the shore. I became more and more interested to meet and visit this person. Maybe this person, and where he lives, could give me another perspective about the impact of the 2011 earthquake in Japan. If I wasn’t able to “see” the image when I was there in the disaster-stricken area, maybe I would be able to “see” and photograph is from a distance? 

 

How do I capture how these items, these parts of someone else’s past, has come a long way and traveled about 70000 miles across the Pacific Ocean from Japan all the way to the United States?

 

Who is this person who was waiting for these debris to come, and why, somehow was collecting them? Who is this person who has built an entire museum by himself, and dedicated it to the items collected from the beach?

 

As I, myself, planned to travel from Japan to a small town in the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State, on the North Western coast of the United States, I was imagining a lot about what I will learn and find out.

 

As I arrived, I met the owner, and got to see all of the items in “John’s Beachcombing Museum,” and I was left speechless… John had been a plumber, and beachcombing has been his hobby and personal passion for the last 40 years. I also found out that the tsunami debris he collected was only a small part of his beachcombing collection. As I spent more time with him, he taught me more about the ocean, currents, tides, the beach, how the debris move across the ocean, and how they get washed up on the beach. The more I got to spend time with him in his home, in his museum, in his cabin, and on the beach, the more I understood how he saw the world through his beachcombing – just like how a photographer would see the world through their photography. Because of this, I started to think about many other things for my photography, and not just about the 2011 earthquake or tsunami debris.

 

After I came back home to Tokyo, I immediately started on a project to make a photography book about John and his beachcombing. When I was selecting and editing my images, I was also remembering the time when I was younger, I was also living in a city near the United States Pacific Coast. I recalled my memory of looking through a big window at the ocean and always thought, “Somewhere across that vast ocean, is Japan”. Even back then, I was feeling a sense of distance while traveling back and forth between Japan and the United States. Maybe in this way, I myself, could also be debris taking the long journey across the ocean.

 

The last 2 years has been difficult for me as a photographer. I was quite confused and lost about my photography, and I asked myself many times on what photography meant for me, or what kind of photography I should pursue. I started being a photographer many years ago, yet the more I ask these questions, the more confused and desperate I feel. In that way, I felt that I was like the debris, drifting in the ocean. Did all the questions I asked myself helped me to get to somewhere already? When will I arrive to the end of my journey? Working on this project, whenever I feel uncertain, I think of John, who’s probably out there, alone on the beautiful beach, riding his buggy and trying to find more debris, even today. This thought somehow gives me a warm feeling and courage to keep going and continue my journey. This thought could be the hope or healing that I was searching for somewhere deep down in my heart. If I decide to continue to grow, and keep doing my photography, I’d like to share the story of “Hope” through my photographs. I may need to travel far and wide to find these hidden stories somewhere in the world, but it would be still nice and should be worth it. 

 

 Even after tragedies, time still passes by, currents still drift, the tides still change, the sun still rises, and there will be someone who picks up debris. All I needed to do was just to point my camera at it.

 

 

 Atsuko Murano Abalos

 February,2016