Monday, March 21, 2011

Images of disaster in Japan lend visual power

NEW YORK – Sometimes it's a fast-moving ooze: A street becomes a stream, grows into a river and then a raging mountain of moving debris. Sometimes, it's a wet curtain of water crashing over a shoreline, tossing trees, ships and cars casually aside as a child would a stack of Legos.

Until a week ago, a tsunami was one of the most mysterious of natural events, its devastating power usually evident only in the aftermath. Yet from the first moments the earth started to shudder on March 11, Japan's tsunami was one of the most recorded disasters ever to be captured on film, lending a visual power to story-telling unmatched since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks almost a decade ago.

Quake footage was available almost instantly: Office workers running outside as building chunks slam to the ground; skyscrapers swaying like evergreens in a windstorm; pictures falling off walls; store stock spilling to the floor. One man kept recording as his living room seemed to fall apart around him. His camera caught his shaky steps as he finally rushed outside.


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