An Open Letter to the “Fukushima Exclusion Zone” Photographer, Keow Wee Loong

Hello, Mr. Loong.

You don’t know me, but–

Actually, perhaps you do know me. I’m the random nobody who, on Thursday, July 14, spoke out against your irredeemably reckless and irresponsible actions in Fukushima. Upon receiving such criticism, your knee-jerk reaction was to silence me by banning me from your photo album and deleting my post, which was wildly “liked” within mere minutes because it contained a truth that you could not bear to come to terms with. I wish I still had a copy of it lying around, but unfortunately, there’s not a trace of it left, thanks to your attempt at censorship.

 

I want to direct your attention to a post you recently made on your Facebook:

FB

 

Can you tell me what’s wrong with this?

No? I’ll tell you. You claim in your description of the photo album that you want to “spread the awareness of the danger in [sic] using nuclear energy.” Yet, now that your project has gained some traction, all I see are posts about how many interviews you’re doing, how successful you’ve become, and a complete and utter refusal to listen to a single dissenting opinion on the repercussions of your actions.

Mr. Loong, I have to ask: Are you sure this wasn’t just some publicity stunt, a last-ditch effort to get your 10 seconds of Internet fame? Because from where I’m standing, that’s exactly what it was: A cheap, disrespectful publicity stunt that oozes desperation in both its vision and execution.

Indeed, the worst part of all this is the blatant spreading of misinformation and lies for the sake of creating sensationalist drama instead of attempting to create a narrative through photos. That is art. You, Mr. Loong, are not an artist. I will not comment on your photography skills, or lack thereof, but I will say that this project was clearly designed to put yourself in the public eye–not to create a meaningful message about Fukushima for the world to hear. As a current resident of Japan and someone who has very close ties to Japan and has spent a significant portion of his life studying the country and its language, culture, and history, and as someone who hopes to continue to work toward a future in which East Asia can exist in peace and solidarity, I feel that it is my personal duty to global society to call you out on your irresponsible and thoughtless actions.

And I’m not alone. As one Redditor puts it: “After reading the whole post on Facebook, it seems to me he just wants people to know how cool he is for trespassing in a dangerous area. Rather than making an effort to capture the atmosphere or show how sad it is that all these people lost their homes and livelihoods, he just makes his friend take pictures of him standing around in empty shops wearing a gas mask.”

A nuclear engineer who works for the Japan Atomic Energy Agency voiced his own opinion and thoroughly debunked almost every single claim that you made in detailing the project.

And one Fukushima resident says:

“Not only is what he did illegal, but extremely disrespectful to victims of the disaster who had no choice but to leave their homes. Additionally, his post is full of misinformation about the disaster, radiation, and much more, specifically aimed at promoting the sensationalist image of Fukushima, rather than the truth.”

Please help us promote the positives of our beautiful prefecture, rather than damaging its image further for posterity and internet fame.”

 

But what is the purpose of this letter? What am I hoping to achieve with it? Is it some kind of personal vengeance, or the adrenaline rush that comes with feelings of self-righteousness? Am I trying to quash your career as a photographer? Do I wish radiation sickness upon you and your offspring?

Well, no. As livid as I’ve been about this whole affair, I’m rational enough not to harbor such feelings. But I want to open your eyes to the residents of this community that you have so blatantly shown disrespect for. I want to give them a voice, because they have been used, violated, and trampled on for your brief moment in the spotlight. I want to give you feedback on your work, because that is what artists require in order to thrive. If you are not willing to listen, then I am not willing to consider you an artist. You have no artistic vision or message for the world–for posterity. You want the power that comes with being famous, but for you, the people whose lives you exploit en route to such fame couldn’t matter less. Art couldn’t matter less.

This is where your entire project falls flat on its face and you become a smear on the face of Malaysia in the eyes of Japan.

 

Your tarnishing of Japan’s image for personal gain is irresponsible and distasteful at best, and a strong piece of evidence of the foolishness of man at worst.

 

Good day.

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