WE ARE HERE --- Installation May 14, 2011

We left Narita on Thursday and arrived in New York City around noon on the same day.  We brought in overwhelming volume of stuff and all members worked hard to manage them.  Please look at the pile of cardboard boxes!  This picture doesn’t show all but there are total of 28 staff members along with their suitcases as well.  It was fun, reminding me of my school trip.  However, the traveling itself made me exhausted (laugh).

As soon as we landed in the United States, we moved to a gallery to bring in pictures and drawings.
The venue is a gallery called AIGA located in the Chelsea district in Manhattan.  The gallery embraces a high ceiling and sophistication of New York City.  This is the place where 80 photographs and 400 pictures drawn by children in the disaster area will be displayed.

The theme of photographs is Sasaki Portrait Studio.  It consists of photographs of Onagawa city taken by my father and me, and also photographs of the children in the disaster area.  We will also show nine restored portraits of ‘Masters in 20th Century’ taken by my father.  They are not in perfect condition but we have decided to show them as the survivors of the tsunami.  When they are spotlighted, even a melted surface shows a good taste.  My father’s large format camera (4x5), which was found in rubble and still covered with mud and salt from seawater, is displayed as it is.  It is vividly describing the impact from the tsunami.

The photographs taken by my father are displayed on the wall.  The moment when the first portrait of the series of ship carpenters was placed, I said to my father, “Dad, finally you made your global debut as a photographer”, and I was almost moved to tears.  The master carpenter in the picture even looked happy.

There are workers who put photographs and pictures on the walls for exhibition.  They are Lisa and Bob.  Just as you expect from professionals in NYC, they are skillful and have good sense.  The way they measure the wall to level and nail the objects onto the wall in a second is truly a work of craftsmanship.  It took them five hours to finish displaying the photograph section.  Since the ceiling is so high, Lisa and Bob use a lifter shown in this picture to decorate the wall.  You don’t see a ladder of that high in Japan so often, which is interesting to just watch.

The pictures drawn by children are individually mounted in acrylic frames, and all are dazzling on the wall.  When you take time and look at each picture closely one by one, each touches you deeply and much more than photographs do.  I feel pain by looking at them.  I feel sad by thinking that they have been hanging tough with such feelings.  These drawings will make you realize that all these children have kept going forward positively while their little hearts have been suffering from great pain and distress.  I want many people in New York City to see and feel these children’s hearts.

Hug Japan May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011
I am involved in a project called Hug Japan which will have an exhibition in New York.

 --- Little Voices and Art 311 Japan
May 16th  to 20th, 2011

Gallery at AIGA National Design Center
164 Fifth Avenue (between 21st and 22nd Streets) in New York City

The following are three areas of our exhibition.
Global Message Relay --- Pitcures Drawn by Childrens of Disaster Areas
Photo Exhibition --- “The Day, and After”   My photo exhibits of current Onagawa and the portraits of ship carpenters taken by my father.
A film of Onagawa from the viewpoint of Atsushi Sasaki, which was taken by my husband, Yusuke Suzuki.

An insignificant photographer from the country now coming to the world’s stage!
Never ever thought of such chance would come to show my “Onagawa” photos to the world…

There were reasons for my decision to participate in this project.
First, the paper the children are drawing on.  It is unique Japanese paper called “Kangoshi,” which is a recycle from the paper on which people once wrote Buddhist scriptures in deep thought for special friends, benefactors or family. 
Also drawing pictures are therapeutic to children in disaster areas.  Above all, the sense of connection with the world that these children can feel, knowing that their drawings are seen by people in foreign countries, gives them confidence.  When I heard this, I made up my mind right away.

And my photo exhibits in collaboration with my father.  I have been trying to heal myself by taking photos for the past two months.  Showing the work is having Onagawa known to the world. 

I heard that people who had suffered from the Great Hanshin Earthquake said “being forgotten is the saddest.”  In two months after the earthquake, Onagawa has gone through reconstruction at full speed.  The town is changing so rapidly that it hardly gives us time to mourn for the dead or to be filled with sorrow.  “Onagawa” will soon be forgotten. 
There was time when I thought that my taking photos would do nothing to help the reconstruction of the town.  On the other hand, I thought giving a photo exhibition overseas might be useful.

The Past (Father), the Present (I) and the Future (Children) on an axis of time ….Sounds like an interesting photo exhibit.
I am so honored to be able to exhibit our work at a well-known New York gallery.  Wonder if my parents pushed and backed me up? (or father simply wanted to go to New York himself?) 

This exhibit will go to Paris, France and then continue onto Taiwan. 
I’m looking forward to reporting the exhibit to the children by showing a lot of pictures I take at each exhibition site. 
Oh, I’m so happy that I can be a bridge that connects them to the world.

My father’s favorite items May 6, 2011

I went to Onagawa on May 2 and 3.
Amid Golden Week, Tohoku Highway was rather crowded.
In Onagawa, there were many cars with license plates from other prefectures or people who did not have Onagawa dialect. Did they come to see a world heritage site, Onagawa? Whether it was good or bad, I would want them to come back to Onagawa when it recovers as a port town to eat tasty fish. 

Roads were made a little higher in the shape of a cross around Marine Pal. It seems that it was to prevent flooding at the time of high tide. What a change in just 10 days as I was in Onagawa until 4/21. I can understand that people are talking about recovery, but when the town changes so rapidly at this pace, there is no time to be nostalgic. (laugh)

This time, I went as a group of three, with my husband and a former classmate, Mr. K.  He experienced the Kobe earthquake when he was in high school. He was in the same photography department in Nihon University College of Art as me and we were in the same class for four years since the entry to the school. One time, he stayed at our house in Onagawa, so the visit this time seemed very shocking. He lost words to the damages caused by the tsunami, which is a little different from those by earthquakes, but still looked through the finder and clicked the shutter.

I am used to the scenes of Onagawa, however, I discovered something new by taking a friend with me. To my surprise, I found a 4x5 rails and a large tripod for the use in studio, both of which were my father’s favorite items. They were found at 50 ~ 100 meters west to the house.
I had been only looking 30 meters around the house. It is understandable that a photographer friend can find those items quickly. (laugh)

I just realized that it was a little strange to be called “rubble.”
What is on the ground is a collective mass of something that was part of our life, such as pillars of a house, a chest of drawers, clothes, and plates. My father’s camera equipment is now just iron scraps, but we could live thanks to the equipment. It did a good job until the end. I would like to thank not only to my father, but to the equipment. 

From Hokkaido May 2, 2011

A letter from a woman in Hokkaido was delivered to Asahi newspaper. It was from a 57-year-old woman who was born in Onagawa and spent her life there until 6th grade in elementary school. At the end of the letter where she wrote about her feelings towards her hometown and memories of Onagawa, she wrote a very surprising incident.

“A photo to commemorate my entrance to the elementary school was taken at the studio of your grandfather, but right before it was finished, the photo was washed away by the Chile tsunami and I could not receive it.”

It was May 24, 1960. The tsunami caused by the earthquake in Chile destroyed the first generation of the Sasaki Portrait Studio that my grandfather built. A lot of negatives were lost, too.

What were the feelings of my grandfather at the time?
What did my father feel about it when he returned from his training?
Later on, in 1972, my father built the current home (that was destroyed this time.) Did they ever imagine that the same thing would happen 39 years later?

I am sure they feel so mortifying.
We could not deliver the memory of the year 1960 to this lady, but somehow I would like to deliver my grandfather’s feelings.

From New Zealand May 1, 2011

Messages came from elementary school children in New Zealand to an elementary school in Onagawa.
A message and drawings from each and every child; I am sure they spared a lot of time and effort to write and draw.
They were visualizing friends in far away Japan, whom they had never even met and trying to encourage them.
I was moved as I turned the pages one by one. 

Mr. Watarai, a teacher, put together everything neatly. He put round stickers around the holes of each page so that the holes would not break, attached drawings and messages on thicker paper and put Japanese translation. I see a sophisticated sense of art in his careful work. Their eyes that watch over children in the affected area from far away New Zealand; It is encouraging not only to students in Onagawa, but also for teachers in Onagawa. I will make sure to deliver your messages! Thank you,  Ms.Watarai. I appreciate your kindness very much.

A Devastated Area in Ibaragi Prefecture May 1, 201

On April 28, I visited Takahagi Elementary School in Ibaragi prefecture.
Located in the northern part of Ibaragi prefecture, the school is faced by the Pacific Ocean and is blessed with rich nature.
The damage from the tsunami in this area was not in a great extent, but the devastation from the earthquake was substantial.  The children in this area had been frightened for days as electricity and water had not been available for several days after the earthquake.  And now they are scared of invisible radiation.

I became involved with a project under which we have children in disaster areas draw some pictures or write messages and those will be exhibited in a gallery in New York.  106 students from the 4th and 5th grades of Takahagi Elementary School are participating in this project, representing children in Ibaragi Prefecture.

First, a teacher introduced me to the students.
“This young lady came from a town called Onagawa in the Sanriku region.  Her house was washed away by the tsunami and she lost her mother and father.

She is here to take photos of you and your activities today.”
Then 212 eyes gazed at me all together.
What would it mean that people are dead and houses are lost?

Children became vivid when they started drawing pictures.
A child drawing with many colors.  A child writing a message with an ink-brush-style pen.  A child writing with a big, strong stroke.  A child writing “Supporting Each Other” in a thin, narrow stroke.

Common feeling among them is “Life”--- That is what I felt.  

Gazing at me and my engagement in taking photos, one of the girls asked me if it was
true that I lost my (parents’) home.  She must have felt uneasy while asking me such a question.  She grabbed my arms gently and said, “I hope you will find your parents soon.”

It seems that these girls wanted to help me.  One of the students said, “You, too, keep your chin up, Sister!  We are with you!”

While I was taking photos, another child asked me, “Do you know about radiation?  I want to know if my school is safe.”
Even though they want to ask their teachers and parents about radiation, no one really knows the situation regarding radiation.  Living in this town means that these children have to face such risk.

I myself have lived with the situation of Onagawa nuclear power plant.  I know painfully the situation that these children are placed in.

Stress from the earthquake devastation and double calamity of nuclear power and earthquake.
I want to brighten the future of these children.

The photos of these children will be exhibited in New York as well to inform the world of the children who are making the best of their lives in the devastated areas.  Then we will bring the exhibition back to Japan and tell the children living in the disaster areas that they are connected to the world, which hopefully 
will bring about confidence.  It is a tiny activity but I myself too will be able to recover from this hardship.  As a child grabbed my arm and whispered to me, I want to be such a presence to others.


Standing Up, Moving Forward: Bringing Photography to Life

This TV program is my documentary . They had recored me and my husband for three month since 311 Tsunami. I want to tell you how I could be standing up or not. Because it is sometime sad,but it seems the light of hope. Please show it on June 10. 

Check it ; http://jibtv.com/