This unique humanitarian catalogue documents the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated a large swath of Japan’s coastline. Under the project name “Memory Salvage,” volunteers assembled by a Japanese university cleaned and scanned family photographs recovered from the wreckage, with the aim of returning them to their rightful owners. But those that were too heavily damaged were thrown into a “hopeless” box—that is, before photographer Munemasa Takahashi, a project volunteer, discovered them.
Takahashi took these “hopeless” images and turned them into a traveling exhibition, that aimed to raise funds for tsunami survivors. This exhibition catalogue offers its readers a trove of information, condensing the moving exhibition into a large-format paperback publication. The highlights include diverse installation views from the exhibition’s various incarnations, as well as a wide range of texts (in Japanese and English) which contextualize the exhibition and the disaster. Of course, the book also includes the images themselves, moving photographs that convey both the scale of the undertaking and the power of the personal snapshot to humanize tragedy.
Tsunami, Photographs, and Then