Laura Liverani

Based between Japan and Italy, documentary photographer Laura Liverani works mainly on socio-anthropological issues focusing on community and identity. A postgraduate in Arts, Media and Photography at the University of Bologna and the University of Westminster in London, her work has appeared in magazines, books, exhibitions and festivals worldwide.
Publications and clients include Benetton, The Whitechapel Gallery, Iperborea, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Marie Claire, D – La Repubblica, Geo, New Scientist. She held solo shows at the Tokyo G/P Gallery, the Italian Cultural Institute in Tokyo, the Japan Foundation in Sydney, The Hong Kong Fringe Club, and participated at numerous festivals such as the Singapore International Photo Festival, the festival of Ethical Photography, and the Helsinki Photofestival.
Her long term photo and film project Ainu Neno An Ainu on the indigenous peoples of Japan was awarded the Premio Voglino grant for best portfolio in 2015, and later exhibited and published internationally.
Laura teaches Photography at universities in Europe, such as ISIA Design University in Italy, National College of Art Dublin and the University of Applied Sciences Dusseldorf.
She is currently working on a commissioned documentary photo and video project to disseminate a research on ageing societies, in collaboration with the University of Milano Bicocca, Politecnico di Milano and the University of Tokyo.

Ignite

Today marks ten years since the devastating earthquake and Tsunami in northern Japan that caused one of the worst nuclear disasters in history. After a magnitude 9 earthquake hit off the coast of Tohoku, a massive Tsunami wiped off the Pacific coast in northern Japan, engulfing entire towns, killing over 18,000 people, and triggering a triple nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

In September 2018 I was on assignment to illustrate Richard Lloyd Parry’s article Ghosts of the Tsunami for The Passenger – Japan. I decided to explore the affected areas by joining a friend, Sendai based architect Fumiko Yonemura, on a 3 day road trip along the Tohoku coast. She was going to meet her clients, and I would take photos. After many years, trauma was still tangible everywhere. We met her clients In Kesennuma: an elderly couple whose family-run fish manufacturing business had been wiped away by the Tsunami. After years, they were still operating in a converted container, waiting for Yonemura to complete the new fish factory project.

On the way to Kesennuma, near Ishinomaki, we stopped to gaze at a massive anti-Tsunami wall, emerging from an eerie, deserted landscape. Protective seawalls were constructed all along the Tohoku coast after the 2011 Tsunami. Now almost completed, the cement barriers, some as high as 14 metres, will extend for around 400 km along the coastline.

Not a single person I spoke to during the trip was in favour of the Bohatei, the seawalls. Most argued that they would not protect the coast in case of a massive scale Tsunami anyway. At best, the seawall will shield vacant land, as most inhabited areas by the ocean have been relocated several miles away. A resident spoke about an alleged economic interest in the seawall project from which lobbying construction companies would benefit. Most said that the seawalls not only ruin the landscape, but irremediably compromise the special bond the locals have formed with the sea for generations. “My son will grow up fearing the sea”, said an Iwate resident.

March 11, 2021

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Ignite

Laura Liverani

As the pandemic forced me to stop travel to Japan where I usually work from, I started to look closer to home. This led to resume a side project commenced a couple of years before on liscio, an Italian folk dance. Liscio originated in the region where I was born, Romagna. As a child in the Riviera Romagnola I was exposed to this popular tradition constantly: at summer festivals, in rural stages with live orchestras, in dedicated ballrooms called balere, where my aunt would take me. I loved to watch both young and older ballerini dance, especially the sciucaren, the whip lashers, striking their whips really loud to the sound of the clarinet. Liscio is still widespread today, especially in rural areas. How did this popular tradition developed into the passion that still engages amateur dancers across generations, not only in Emilia-Romagna but all over Italy? What is the significance of folk dance in building a sense of belonging, identity and community? This portrait of two young ballerini from Milleluci dance group in the small town of Alfonsine opens my ongoing series, looking into the folk dance as a social practice today, especially among younger generations.

October 9, 2020

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