The Mountainfilm Commitment Grant was created to help ensure that important stories are not only told, but also heard. Artist Drew Ludwig was a 2011 recipient, which enabled him to travel to Japan to photograph survivors of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami. The tsunami reached heights of 130 feet, traveled several miles inland, and Ludwig was determined to capture the scale of the devastation juxtaposed with the people to whom it had happened.
Accompanied by a translator and guide, Ludwig walked roughly 200 miles across a tsunami-scoured region, camping in abandoned buildings, witnessing remnant after remnant of the catastrophe and seeking out people’s stories. The result is images in which people physically demonstrate the size of the wave they saw. One man, for example, holds a long bamboo pole aloft with an umbrella tied to its tip. A young girl stands on top of an enormous boulder, and another photo is of a man who has just thrown a stone into the air. The stone flies way above him.
During Mountainfilm in Telluride, Ludwig exhibited these life-scaled photos on the walls of the High Camp venue. This fall, he will return to Japan to install the pieces on the streets of Tokyo, an event that will be accompanied by a gallery show. But before he leaves for Japan, he plans to aim his lens at some of the tsunami debris that is washing ashore along the Oregon coastline.