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"Trace" - Cameraless Records of Radioactive Contamination's video poster

Contaminated soils from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster will create cameraless records on photographic materials. Read more

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This project was successfully funded on November 28, 2011.

Contaminated soils from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster will create cameraless records on photographic materials.

About this project

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Project Summary

As an artist I use vanishing analogue photographic materials and techniques. Also, I’m a Japanese native, and moreover I was born in the Fukushima prefecture—for these things I feel entrusted with a mission to create a series of cameraless photographic images using radioactivity.

A photograph can be created by other forms of electromagnetic radiation besides visible light. Both visible light and radiation are similar forms of energy, they just travel in different wavelengths. As an artist who uses cameraless processes, I want to capture the current state of Japan in a more direct and physical way, using photo-sensitive materials, and expose the paper directly with traces of radiation.

I plan to collect contaminated soil in fifteen to twenty locations containing a strong memory of life and death, such as temples, war sites, suicidal spots, the ruins of castles, each a distinctly different location in a different prefecture. I have selected areas where the majority of people are living their daily lives. In other words, not in evacuated zones. Among my choices I include Sukagawa City, forty miles away from the Fukushima nuclear plant, where I was born, and where my grandparents have lived their entire life and currently reside today. 

The radiation from the contamination will create direct documentation of Japan’s current state. These images will narrate something to us, perhaps beyond the photograph or data visualization— I hope it will be an asset and documentation for future generations.

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How it works

Before using the contaminated soil, I tested the exposure of photographic papers with radioactive materials. In my experimentation all the processes were done under a red safe-light. Black and white photographic paper is only sensitive to blue and green light. Therefore, the exposed image is purely created from the radioactivity.

Experiment 1: Radioactive Isotope Disk (Cs-137)

Experiment 2: Crushed Radioactive Red Fiestaware (U-235 & U-238)


January 2012
- Contaminated soil collection and setting up to expose photo-sensitive materials (8×10″ B/W film). The exposure processes will be conducted in Japan.

February-March 2012 - After 4-6 weeks of the exposure process the sheet films will be processed in Japan.

After creating the first trace series in the initial 8×10″ size, I will consider a larger scale, using 42″ wide roll paper in spring/summer 2012.

I will exhibit this series in New York with a non-profit art organization. The series will also exhibition in Japan.


Soil Collecting Locations土壌採取地 (JP)


How does Kickstarter work?Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing approach to fund raising for creative projects.  Our project must reach the funding goal of $5,000 in 30 DAYS or no money changes hands.

Why $5000?After producing the rewards (books, prints and shipping), I should be left with enough for my airfare (one trip to collect soils and set up the exposures, and another trip is for processing in Japan), transportation in Japan, renting a storage space as my temporary darkroom space, materials (radiation shielding materials, enclosures, and photographic papers), and a more reliable geiger counter. If I am blessed with more funding, it will go directly to my next step, the production budget for creating the mural size prints using 42” rolls of paper.

Isn't it dangerous?First of all, I do NOT intend to step into evacuated zones. I'm only collecting soil in areas where people are currently living, working and otherwise going about their daily lives. (It doesn't mean these are safe areas for long term living however.) When I work with soils I will protect myself with gloves and a mask to avoid internal radiation exposure. While radiation from the soil exposes photographic materials, obviously I won't be in the container. The "Amount", "Distance", and "Length of time" are criteria for radiation exposure. I can minimize contact and time. The worst problem currently—people get internally exposed from radioactively contaminated water and food circulating all over Japan right now.

Where did you buy those radioactive materials?An exempt quantity of nuclear isotopes, in a safely sealed container, can be purchased for scientific or educational research purposes. No license is required.Vintage Fiestaware can be found online, at auction sites, flea markets, or in antique stores. The ones I used had Uranium Oxide glaze produced from 1936-42.
Where do I get to see this "Trace" work?
I intend to have an exhibition in New York, with a non-profit art organization targeting large audience to raise awareness of the current issues. And I plan to also exhibit the work in Japan.

Please spread the wordabout our Kickstarter campaign to everyone you know, through Facebook and Twitter, Google+, your blog, and the old-fashioned way—word-of-mouth. I very much appreciate your support.

Shimpei Takeda

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航空券、関東、東北地方で土壌採取時の交通費、仮暗室の確保、信頼性のあるガイガーカウンター、フィルムや暗箱といった機材 / 制作費を捻出するために、このKickstarterというウェブサイトを通して資金集めをさせていただいてます。キックスターターは、インターネット上で、 芸術、映画、音楽、舞踏といった独創性のある企画の支援を、一般の人から広く募る媒体で、今、アメリカで非常に注目が集まってます。企画者の有名無名、人種性別年齢を超えて、企画の本質を問われる、非常に斬新で民主的な仕組みになっています。


謝礼品リスト  (配達予定時期:2012年5月)

$10~ 直筆感謝状、と署名入り”痕”葉書。

$25~ 署名入り、自費出版による写真集 ”痕”(ソフトカバー、11.4cm x 15.2cm、40ページ前後)*日本を含めた米国外に住まいの方は郵送料にあたる金額$10をプレッジ金額に上乗せしてお願い致します。

$50~ 署名入り、写真集 ”痕” 2冊。*日本を含めた米国外に住まいの方は郵送料にあたる金額$10をプレッジ金額に上乗せしてお願い致します。

$75~ 土壌採取のために訪問する生死の記憶の強い土地で撮影されたインスタント写真(8x10インチサイズのマット紙付)+ $25の謝礼品

$125~ 大キャビネ(5x7インチ / 120x180ミリ)の”痕”の銀塩プリント。(エディション25)(8x10インチサイズのマット紙付)+ $25の謝礼品

$250~ 六切(8x10インチ / 203x254ミリ)の”痕”の銀塩プリント。(エディション20)(11x14インチサイズのマット紙付)+ $25の謝礼品

$550~ 全大紙(20x24インチ / 508x610ミリ)の”痕”の銀塩プリント。(エディション10)(カスタムオーダー額装希望の方は$300の追加)+ $25の謝礼品

$1500~ (*限定一点) 放射線で焼き付けられた8x10インチサイズのモノクロネガフィルム(展示 / 閲覧用にライトボックス付)+ $25の謝礼品






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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    13 backers

    a handwritten thank you note & a signed “Trace” postcard

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    Pledge $25 or more

    59 backers

    A signed small book “Trace” (softbound, 4.5”x6”, about 40 pages) + a set of $10 *please add $10 for international shipping

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    Pledge $50 or more

    7 backers

    2 signed small book “Trace” + a set of $10 *please add $10 for international shipping

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    Pledge $75 or more

    4 backers

    A signed Polaroid in a memorial “life” site (soil collecting place) in Fukushima **One of a kind! (matted out to 8x10") + a set of $25

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    Pledge $125 or more

    14 backers Limited (11 left of 25)

    A signed 5x7” limited edition (25) of a “Trace” gelatin silver print (hand-processed by me & matted out to 8x10”) + a set of $25

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  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    2 backers Limited (18 left of 20)

    A signed 8x10” limited edition (20) of a “Trace” gelatin silver print (hand-processed by me & matted out to 11x14”) + a set of $25

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  • You selected
    Pledge $550 or more

    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    A signed 20x24” limited edition (10) of a “Trace” gelatin silver print (hand-processed by me) + a set of $25 *Please add $300 if you want me to frame. (Custom float frame + shipping cost)

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  • You selected
    Pledge $1,500 or more

    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    An original radioactively exposed "Trace" 8x10 inch B/W sheet film (**a one of a kind image!), framed and displayed in a light-box as the presentation. + a set of $75

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Funding period

- (30 days)