Given the option to save one thing in the event of a disaster, many people will choose something priceless over something of monetary value. Photographs are often at the top of that list.
But when an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, citizens of Tohoku had to leave all of their belongings behind to flee. Those priceless photo albums that documented generations of family life were left behind. Many were later found lying ruined in piles of debris and mud. Many more were lost.
Brian Scott Peterson, a photographer based in Tokyo, is giving families a new start on rebuilding those memories with Photohoku. The project that gives tsunami victims new photo albums — family portraits to fill them. Peterson and teams of photographers are visiting the temporary housing camps for tsunami victims to take snapshots and listen to their stories. Though Peterson can’t restore their old albums, giving the families a fresh book of memories is a reminder to the victims that even though they have lost their homes, and even some family members, they are resilient. Peterson’s goal is to take photos of every family in Japan that lost those mementos.
“When disaster strikes, life doesn’t just stop. Kids still grow up, relationships blossom anew, relatives pass on, and new memories have to be made, and so does the task of starting new photo albums. This is how we help,” Peterson wrote on Photohoku’s Web site.
The project just received a donation of film from Fujifilm, and organizers are accepting donations of working digital cameras with chargers, so that they can give them to families.
Seeing her photo for the first time, one woman, shown in an video interview below, says, “It’s the first time I’ve seen myself smile in a long time.”