A week ago, Malaysian photographer Keow Wee Loong took to Facebook to upload photos of Fukushima’s exclusion zone that he had taken during his trip in Japan. We’re guessing that you’ve either seen the photos being shared on Facebook or have read about them on CNN and TIME.
In his album description, Loong claimed that he snuck into the exclusion zone (also known as the red zone) but according to a Polish photographer named Arkadiusz Podniesiński, the Malaysian is just another “attention seeking kid” who “almost completely fabricated” his story.
In his personal website, Podniesiński, who has been continuously engaged in the photographic documentation of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, stated that Loong’s photos were not taken in the prohibited red zone, but in fact, the open green zone (sometimes orange) and all of these places are open and accessible to the public.
“I have visited Fukushima many times to document the destruction caused by the disaster at the nuclear power plant, and so I did not have any major problems identifying the sites where Keow Wee Loong took his photographs,” he wrote.
The green zone, which includes the streets of Namie where Loong took most of his pictures, has been open to all since 1st April 2016.
You can see Podniesiński’s map of Fuskushima as well as the locations of Loong’s photos below:
So why is Podniesiński trying to expose Loong? The Polish photographer is not a supporter of sensationalism.
“I am, however, a strong opponent of seeking sensationalism, 15 minutes of fame and the money that comes with it, which has become synonymous for me with Keow Wee Loong. Photographers and writers of unreliable and inaccurate texts, which are then replicated by hundreds of media outlets around the world, create a false picture of the current situation in Fukushima,” he explained.
You can read his full blog post here.
On top of that, a Japanese blogger known as Pierce criticised Loong through his post titled. “An Open Letter to the ‘Fukushima Exclusion Zone’ Photographer, Keow Wee Loong”, calling his urbex attempt “a cheap, disrespectful publicity stunt that oozes desperation in both its vision and execution”.
He even included a passage written by a Fukushima resident which reads:
“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.”
On Tuesday (19th July), the man in question also took to Facebook to respond to the controversy. Through his post, he expressed disappointment over fellow photographer Podniesiński’s act and also answered several questions that people have been asking him since he published his album.
He also emphasised that he stands true to his story.
This is not to say that Loong’s photos weren’t well-taken, but whether or not his claims and intentions are true remains to be seen.