Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
June 15, 2011

TEPCO: Fukushima Workers In The Pink. (Oh, Sure.)


Mr. Sakamoto, a junior-high graduate, says he feels a “mission” to help tame the national crisis, but at the same time jokes that he’s too dumb to be scared. “Smart people know about sieverts and becquerels, so they’ve really got this sense of self-preservation, fear, suspicion,” he says. “When you think about it, it’s a real plus to be uneducated and ignorant.” From: Japanese Nuclear Cleanup Workers Detail Lax Safety Practices at Plant (WSJ).

I’m really don’t get the deafness of TEPCO’s visual PR.

They release photos (these, supposedly highlighting the good care and well-being of Fukushima plant workers) as if ham-handed photos, rather than calling an issue into question, somehow put minds at ease. In this case, however, the pictures come out coincident with news reports (such as this WSJ piece, and this in-depth investigation by the NYT) detailing the poor training, slipshod treatment, safety short cuts, new illnesses, inferior compensation and just general exploitation of these same plant workers.

Since the accident at Fukushima, the simplistic and naive nature of these photos has been remarkable (reminscent of this early “we plugged the leak” classic I keep linking to.)  In this case, TEPCO wants us to see that their underpaid, undertrained and and largely ignorant work force is getting rest breaks, so here we get multiple pictures of cute, cordoned off little areas where we seem them, yes, resting.

Beyond the achingly sophomoric strategy, this photo has enough other elements to contradict almost any conveyance of calm. The “X, X, X” thing, both in the “cancellation” symbolism itself as well as in screaming “off limits,” is disconcerting and strange, on top of the “field hospital” vibe. And then, what’s with the  Pepto-Bismol pink?

So, rest all you workers while we photograph you resting. In the meantime, I’ll remember these photos well for best exemplifying “insult to injury.”

>> See more takes on Japan earthquake/nuke disaster photos at Bag and Bag Tumblr.<<

( Photo 1: Tokyo Electric Power Co./Kyodo – A worker wearing protective gear sits on a chair at a rest area on the first floor of the service building for the No. 5 and 6 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture on May 19, 2011. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the troubled plant, released the photographs of rest areas at the plant on June 10, 2011. Photo 2: Tokyo Electric Power Co./Kyodo – Workers take a break inside a facility called Toshiba rest area at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture on May 15, 2011. The facility has been provided since May 10, 2011, and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the troubled plant, released the photographs of rest areas at the plant on June 10, 2011.)

(A special research assist to Bag intern, Jonathan Gibby)

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