Even though about 1,500 family photographs gathered from the debris of the March 11 tsunami are no longer identifiable, Munemasa Takahashi thought they still could tell a powerful story.
The 31-year-old Tokyo photographer wanted to show them to people outside the stricken region by holding an exhibition featuring the photographs retrieved from wreckage in a disaster-ravaged town in northeastern Japan.
“I wanted people to have a sense of the reality of the disaster through seeing those photos,” he said.
The exhibition, titled “Lost & Found,” is being held at the Akaaka gallery in Tokyo’s Minato Ward.
The show exhibits the family photos collected from debris in Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, after the town, with a population of about 17,000, was engulfed by the tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The exhibition was born out of a project that aimed to return the photos retrieved in recovery operations to their owners.
Takahashi has been working for the project since May as a volunteer.
Participants of the project created a database of photos found by cleaning the muddied images and duplicating them.
So far about 20,000 photos and 1,200 photo albums have been returned to their owners.
The pictures on display at the exhibition were in bad shape as a result of bacteria in seawater and mold that most of the people and buildings shown in them were unidentifiable.
The participants of the project thought about disposing of them because locating their owners seemed virtually impossible until Takahashi hit upon his brainchild.
The exhibition, which runs until Feb. 11, also is selling posters showing the town of Yamamoto before the disaster.
Part of the proceeds from the sales will be donated to the town to help it cover expenses in operating temporary housing for victims.
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