Thursday, June 18, 2009

Minamata disease (Reflection paper)

Pictures taken in Minamata city show the power of photography again. They are so emotional pictures. If I did not see those pictures, I would not know about this event. Even when I was in Japan, I had not heard about it but about disease cased by atomic bombing. These pictures almost do not differ from the pictures of people suffering from radiation related diseases. I have seen horrible pictures in the museum in Hiroshimo. After seeing that museum, I could not eat for a while. The same feeling came when I saw this album.

Photographer Eugene Smith was both observer and participant in this event. He took all kinds of photo: suffering people, families, anti-Chisso movement, fishermen, court room etc. This album is result of his work for several years. Because he took pictures both conflicted sides does no mean this album is objective. Pictures of Chisso officials sharpen the meaning of their guiltiness. Although photographs are more truthful than written stories, it is very difficult to apply for objectivity or balance in pictures. In stories, reporters can build balance at least by quoting both sides. In photography, the situation is different. In every album, almost every picture has own bias. However, this imbalance is meaningful because the photographer with those pictures stands for the people. In this case, the photographer is a figther with the people from Minamata against pollution caused industrialization. Ten thousand people were suffering from Minamata disease.

When I read in the album that people in Minamata do not like the name of this disease, I remember the same thing related to the name of another disease. Some people call Dawn syndrome Mongoloid. People in my country do not like this name as well. Because nothing is related to this disease in history of my country. Dawn had never been to Mongolia. I read in encyclopedia that he gave this name because patients suffered by this disease had small eyes. Almost all Asian people have smaller eyes than European. Why did not he call this disease Japanoud, Chinoid or Korenoid or something like that.

Oyungerel Avirmed

May, 2001

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