Book Review: To the Village Square: From Montague to Fukushima: 1975-2014
By Lionel Delevingne (Photography)
Anna Gyorgy (Introduction)
Roberta Hillenberg-Gang (Design)
Published by Nouveau Monde Press, 2014
Photographs that capture the portraits of people in moments of great importance in their lives are the most fascinating and enduring of images. They are highly reflective and draw us into the depth and import of other people’s lives, not only in their own stories, but in how these stories have affected our world. In their own way, these photographs literally create history and affect history. Activism, it seems, is results focused, its purpose being change. How then are great moments of change through grass roots activism remembered? Sometimes artists and writers create a voice through poetry, prose, music, or visual representations that not only speak out in protest and demands, but in themselves serve as works of art that celebrate what is being done for the good, as they sing the songs of change, and a call for justice. That’s why a book of photography that captures images of what happened and tells the story of the heroic people in an important cause is both precious and rare.
The controversy over nuclear power generators has been with me for 45 years. Anyone who might have protested or even questioned the clean, efficient, and safe virtues of nuclear reactors would have been marginalized or ignored when I was a kid. Few people I knew over the years ever brought it up. That was well before the accidents at Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania in 1979, the Chernobyl melt down that devastated untold numbers of lives and contaminated lands across Europe in 1986, and of course the unspeakable disaster at Fukushima, Japan in 2011. All of these events have been horrific to many thousands of human beings. Anti-nuclear power activism and protests and alarms have grown in volume, urgency, and poignancy now. In his commentary for his new book of spell-binding photographs that show us just how urgent and poignant the activism has become, Lionel Delevingne speaks of his inspiration from, “the power of a peaceful and vocal citizenry.” To The Village Square, From Montague, Massachusetts to Fukushima, Japan, 1975-2014, a photographic essay, design by Roberta Hillenberg-Gang, and with an introduction by Anna Gyorgy, author of, NO NUKES: Everyone’s guide to nuclear power, is just one such voice.
Thirty years in the making, this powerful and straight- to-the-point photo documentary at the sites of activism as it happens is a wide-eyed and frank representation of the situation and the issues, and it is an homage of praise and thanks to all those who have been speaking out, informing about, and sadly, been affected by the tremendously unsafe nature of nuclear power. The documentary follows the antinuclear/Safe Energy movement, the protest and the aftermaths in startling photographs of compassion and clarity, juxtaposed on every other page with large print quotes and statements of experts, activists, and protesters in a movement against nuclear presence and disasters, from the successful resistance of the small town of Montague, Massachusetts against a proposed twin reactor power plant to heroic photographs and interviews at the most recent nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, a photo documentary of respect, compassion, and reverence.
Like most people I know, I have always been anti-nuclear in opinion and years ago I thought I might get involved in resistance, but I never really had the opportunity, or enough inclination, to act on my beliefs. But all this while I have been in support of those who sacrificed so much as protesters or as victims of nuclear power. This new book is an opportunity, a marvelous realignment for all of us. Lionel Delevingne’s photographs are intimate and human, each face and scene is moving in a way you feel close to the people and places. These gentle portraits stir one of the most important points of the gentle and respectful perspectives in each photograph, that grass roots responses and protests can and always have affected and changed public opinion, policy, and governments, through push back, when government and powerful interest groups abuse the people. Grass roots revolution dispels ignorance and creates awareness on important issues that affect lives.
The book, according to Mr. Delevingne, is homage to the power of grass roots democracy, organized protest movements and speakers, who are dedicated to a safe and clean environment creating power that is responsible and safe for people everywhere. It is a book of how people, right in the nearby village, can come out and speak aloud about their truth and literally change the world. The information in this book is up close and personal. It is of portraits that say who people are and what they know. This is the kind of book, the kind of art, which inspires us all through the joy of expression, even in the face of tragedy, as it celebrates the many victories of the people’s power to make change.