On March 11th 2011, the massive earthquake and tsunami swept and took away countless things from us.
This tragedy was widely reported by the press, and many people in Japan and from all over the world stood up and reached out to help in any way they could.
The “Memory Salvage” was one such action, a project in Yamamoto-cho, Miyagi Prefecture, to clean and digitize lost family photos in order to return them to owners. Many, including the Japanese Self-Defense Forces took part in retrieving photos which numbered seven hundred fifty thousand. More than one thousand people volunteered, and approximately four hundred thousand pictures were returned to their owners in the past three years. The project continues till today.
During this process, we realized that there were countless pictures which could not be returned because they were too severely damaged. We founded “The Lost & Found Project” to use these photos, which were destined to be thrown away, to reach out to the people living far-way places to show these photos, tell our stories, and ask for donations.
These pictures offer visceral feel for the presence of the people and their lives in the photos, something that the press reports, videos and casualty figures cannot communicate. These photos also show the compassion with which they were handled by so many people who retrieved and washed them.
What this project told us was that when something happens which is totally out of our hands, instead of being overcome with a feeling of helplessness, individuals taking small steps will collectively bring positive results. Today, we can take pictures whenever and wherever, but one is reminded that a single photograph can have a value that nothing else can replace. And most importantly, I will continue to send the message, through this project, the importance of remembering the people who are no longer with us.