In between beautiful green mountains the villages of Iitate and namie are located more than 40 kilometres away from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Though outside the 20 kilometres exclusion zone, most if he people in the surrounding villages have all but left. Only elderly and those who cannot leave their businesses stayed behind, despite the dangerous levels of radiation.
“The village of Iitate is more than 2000 years old” according to mister Hiroshi Tada, who is the keeper of a 900 year old shrine in the village. With great precision and care people have been attuning themselves into their environment, living in almost perfect harmony with the landscape. You can see their respect for nature in the way they build their houses, work their gardens, the way the farmers grow their crops and keep their animals. The local culture is deeply rooted in nature itself – and it has been carefully preserved for centuries.
I sought to document the aftermath of the nuclear accident through the landscape. I sensed a profound feeling of loss while being there: the loss of beauty, the loss of land and husbandry, the loss of local tradition, with families scattered all over the country.
You can see nature already taking over. In the early morning monkeys are looking for food on the edges of the villages, wild boars are roaming the fields, cranes fly over majestically in breathtaking scenery. And there is silence. An eere silence. The grass is creeping through the tarmac, gardens are slowly overgrown by wild plants. Scattered artefacts lying around. suggesting a hasty escape out of the area. Houses and farms abandoned. The paint starting to peel from doors and windows.
ROBERT KNOTH gained recognition for his work in some of the world’s worst conflicts areas, in recent years Knoth’s work has seen a shift towards a more documentary and contemporary approach. He now works as an autonomous photographer, often on longer term documentaries. In his work Knoth aims to show the complexity of various social, economical or political issues and the effects they have on the lives of ordinary people.
The project Certificate no. 000358/ , featuring the dramatic fall-out of several nuclear disasters in the former Soviet Union won him much acclaim. Since 2006 the book and exhibition has reached a large audience worldwide. Some of the venues where the work has been shown are the Oxo Gallery in London, Place Des Arts in Montreal, Moscow House of Photography, Center for Contemporary Art in Kiev and the International Photo Festival in Ping Yao.
He continued working with Antoinette de Jong in his most recent project Poppy, trails of Afghan heroin. The book and audio visual installation combines 20 years of work from 12 countries, providing a powerful narrative about the global impact of Afghan heroin along the main trafficking routes. Poppy is a story about ‘the dark side of globalization’, illustrating how armed conflict, corruption, migration, chronic poverty, terrorism and transnational crime are all closely intertwined. The work has been exhibited at the Dutch Photo Museum in Rotterdam and will travel from there on. A book has been published by Hatje Cantz/Ydoc in April 2012.
During his career Robert Knoth has won numerous awards including two World Press Awards, PDN Awards, Photo Prize Prague, Premio Miran Hrovatin Award and five Dutch Silver Camera Awards.
Knoth regularly gives workshop and lectures. They include the Tisch School of Arts New York, University of Brisbane and University of New South Wales, Frontline Club, London, Noorderlicht Groningen, Australian Center of Photography, State Academy of Journalism in Beijing, Fotopub Slovenia and Photometria Ionannina.
Amongst interviews and commentaries about his work are BBC World, CNN, VPRO television, Australian Broad Casting News, BBC Radio Four, RTL News, The Australian, NRC Handelsblad, the Volkskrant, British Journal of Photography, Foto8 and Rangefinder Magazine.