Work > Writing

Voice 03 Kevin

Interview for project monograph

Tsunami, Photographs, and Then - LOST & FOUND PROJECT: Family Photos Swept Away by 3.11 East Japan Tsunami

164 pages, softcover, 13.5 " x 10"
AKAAKA Art Publishing (2014)
ISBN-10: 4865410120
ISBN-13: 978-4865410129
Click here to purchase monograph

"In addition to the New York exhibition, the show in San Francisco was made possible by Ivan Vartanian. He introduced me to Kevin B. Chen, who organized the exhibition at Intersection for the Arts. We supplied images and information about the damaged photographs to eight local artists, who in turn created works that were presented alongside photographs from the project. To be honest, having never met the artists I was worried about what would happen, but after viewing their works, I could clearly see their sincerity. Everyone was amazing and I found myself wishing that I could speak English more fluently. In San Francisco I was given an important task: Kevin asked me to give a short speech on opening night. The text was translated and I tried hard to memorize each line and the correct pronunciation of the words, but on the night I grew self-conscious about my poor English skills. My hands and voice started to quiver. It was awful, and even the beers couldn’t sooth my nerves." – Munemasa Takehashi

1) Why did you decide to help the Lost & Found project?

As an arts organization that looks at larger social, cultural, and political issues of our time through the lens of art, when we first heard about the Lost & Found project, we felt that it could be a powerful opportunity to raise awareness of the tragedy of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan with American audiences. Even as we continue to move into a digital world, the power of a printed photograph continues to resonate universally. We felt that by working with Lost & Found, we could create an accessible platform on which to talk about the immensity of the disaster and also to create a respectful way to honor the thousands of lives that were altered or lost on that day.

2) What did you think at first when you saw the Lost & Found project?

When I first saw the photographs from the Lost & Found project after they were delivered from Tokyo to San Francisco, I cried. Photographs are such a universal language that transcends differences in culture, language, and geography. Everyone understands photographs. Baby photographs, wedding photographs, graduation photographs. Photographs of holiday gatherings, photographs of vacation, photographs of baseball games. Photographs with a best friend, photographs with a mother, father, brother, sister. Photographs of meals, photographs of dogs, photographs of homes. Seeing thousands of these photographs, and thinking about what memories and feelings each single one contained is overwhelming to say the least. It really brought the immense scale of the earthquake and tsunami disaster down to such an intimate, human scale.

3) Could you tell me how the audience’s response was like?

The audience’s response in San Francisco, CA has been very moving. Many people cried at seeing all of the photographs, and spent a lot of time looking at individual photographs, trying to make out what the image was amongst all of the parts that were washed away. People remarked that although they saw photographs and videos of the tsunami disaster on television, many had not felt the emotional impact in such a powerful way until they saw this collection of washed away family photographs. Again, because the language of photography is so universal and international, many people could relate to seeing photographs of family, of home, or vacation on a personal, emotional level, and also understand how hard it must be to lose these treasured memories.

4) Could you tell me your memory with Munemasa?

Munemasa is doing brave important work with the Lost & Found project, and its really important that he continues to share these photographs on an international scale. Although the tsunami occurred over two years ago, so many people are still trying to find ways to survive and rebuild their lives. Munemasa approaches this project with a deep level of respect and responsibility. He just wants to do right by the people of Yamamoto, and to help raise awareness of live continuing in this part of the world.