‘Lost & Found Project: Family Photos Swept by 3.11 East Japan Tsunami’
From now until Sunday, 3,000 damaged photographs are on display at the Hiroshi Watanabe Studio, a small gallery space in West Hollywood. They are part of 30,000 badly damaged photos recovered from the city of Yamomoto after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011. The photographs were collected during the clean-up mission by firefighters, police officers and military troops, even though they were not asked to do this task particularly.
A gymnasium soon filled up with the found photographs, and 19,000 pictures were returned to their owners. A couple of months after the disaster, a group called the Memory Salvage Project sorted through the total of more than 750,000 photos. They were cleaned and digitized by volunteers. The photographs being displayed in the “Lost & Found Project: Family Photos Swept by 3.11 East Japan Tsunami” are among those that were so badly damaged they are not recognizable. Also on display is a damaged photo album that has not been cleaned, giving a slight sense of the devastation.
This project tugged at my heart as I thought about how much photography is part of our lives. Not in the sense of just making a photograph but that we make photographs to preserve a moment, an emotion and a memory. A photograph is a tangible element to our memory of something we found special at least for that moment in our lives. I imagine that when one loses everything, including photographs, as did the people who suffered through the earthquake and tsunami, it is a small comfort to get back even a damaged piece of those memories.
The show will next go to the Aperture Foundation in New York, April 2-27.
Photo: A view of the exhibit in West Hollywood. Credit: Lost & Found Project
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