Eight years after their now-legendary publication Poppy—Trails of Afghan Heroin, Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong have completed their next long-term project, Tree and Soil. Following the 2011 nuclear disaster they photographed and filmed the changing landscapes in the closed zones around Fukushima over a period of five years. “At times we felt like archaeologists of the future, trying to understand what happened in a distant past when a mysterious force resulted in the evacuation of towns, villages, and forests, leaving only a residue of human presence.” They documented evacuated farmhouses, gardens, agricultural fields, and the surrounding hills and forests and interviewed former inhabitants of the area. In this book they combine their own landscape photography with historical material from the collection of naturalist and explorer Philipp Franz von Siebold. In the early nineteenth century Siebold had the opportunity to travel throughout Japan and to take home not only vast quantities of artefacts as well as plant and animal specimens, but also a treasure trove of woodblock prints made by artists such as Kawahara Keiga. Siebold’s collections—now in the possession of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands—illustrate how Japanese culture is deeply rooted in and inspired by nature. Siebold perfectly represents the mindset that became typical for the Age of Exploration -and onwards- in which explorers started to travel the globe to uncover the secrets of the natural world and all its treasures for the benefit of humankind. This era can be seen as a prequel to the Anthropocene, in which our planet has been profoundly changed by human activity. In Tree and Soil Knoth and de Jong underline the intrinsic beauty and value of nature, connecting the past and present by documenting and interpreting the transformations of the deserted landscapes around Fukushima.
„At times we felt like archaeologists of the future, trying to understand what happened in a distant past when a mysterious force resulted in the evacuation of towns, villages, and forests, leaving only a residue of human presence.“
This book has been long in the making. It was carefully edited by the authors with curator Iris Sikking, designed by Kummer&Herrman, renowned Dutch designers of many award-winning photobooks, and beautifully produced by printer Rob Stolk in a very limited one-time edition.
About the photographers
Robert Knoth (*1963, Rotterdam) and Antoinette de Jong (*1964, Tilburg) are based in the Netherlands. They have received numerous awards, and their work has been featured in many solo and group exhibitions in leading festivals and museums. Website
Quote Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong
„Digital technologies have caused a seismic change to our position as documentary makers, giving us endless possibilities in narrative formats. We started experimenting with more layered forms of storytelling fusing the hyperrealism of documentary with the more abstract and conceptual qualities within the visual arts.“
Museum Kulturspeicher, Würzburg, March – May 2021; Museum Hundertwasser/Kunsthaus Wien, Vienna, March – May 2021; May – August 2021 Foto Museum, The Hague, May – August 2021
de Volkskrant (NL)