lost & found

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Lost & Found

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Family photos swept by 3/11 East Japan Tsunami

All these pictures were found in a town named Yamamoto-cho, in Miyagi Prefecture. On March 11th, 2011 at 2:26 PM, Yamamoto-cho was hit by a huge earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0, 50% of the town was flooded when the tsunami came after the earthquake hit. The tsunami not only swept the harbor away, but also many houses, cars, trains, as well as people. 614 people died out of the townʼs population of 16,700, 4 are still missing, and 2,209 buildings were completely destroyed, 1,062 buildings half destroyed, and 1,110 buildings were partially destroyed. Yamamoto-cho was a peaceful small town, just like any other in rural Japan.

The project “Salvage Memory” was started by a team of young researchers from The Japan Society for Socio-Information Studies. We are trying to return 130,000 pictures that were damaged by the tsunami to their owners, by sweeping the dirt off, rinsing them with water, and taking pictures of the photographs to create digital data. More than 500 people volunteered for this project, and 1100 photo albums and 1900 photographs were returned to their owners. As of November 2011, the project was still going on and we were using the digital data to find owners of still unclaimed photographs. Unfortunately, about 30,000 photos were too badly damaged and could not be returned. They were supposed to be thrown out, but instead we decided to exhibit them to give people an opportunity to see them in the belief that these photos carry powerful messages. This is how the “Lost and Found Project” began.

The “Lost and Found Project” was first launched to give people the opportunity to see the photographs swept away by the tsunami in the East Japan Earthquake disaster. These photographs draw us into their presence and make us become aware of their silent voices. This awareness is very important for us who are living in the present and will continue to live into the future. This exhibition should give us an opportunity to think about the relationship people have with their photographs and also to think about the significance of photographs themselves.

“Lost and Found Project” was previously shown in Tokyo, Los Angeles, NY, Melbourne, parts of it in San Francisco and now in Rome, with different installations in each location, making each exhibition a unique and personal experience.

~ Sako Shimizu


The exhibition

The XI edition of Fotografia – Festival Internazionale di Roma, this year dedicated to the theme of work, shows  the project “Lost & Found 3/11”, supported by Doozo Gallery , who has set up a structure for the MACRO Testaccio in Rome.

For the occasion, the gallery in collaboration with 3/3 have produced a small volume, which pieces together an ideal family album, symbol of the deep link between personal and collective memory that enters the work of recovery and conservation of photographs.

Project President and vice-Chairman: Munemasa Takahashi e Kazuto Hoshi.

With the patronage of the The Japan Cultural Insttute in Rome.

Responsible for the project in Italy: Annalisa D’Angelo, Stefano Ruffa and 3/3.


Editor’s note

Photographers want to tell stories. Sometimes stories demand attention through the images. And usually, what is depicted inside the frame, is somehow related to the story told. But in these images there is no relation between them whatsoever, because the images were made for a completely different reason and tell stories unrelated. The story they tell happened outside them. There is nothing sad in these pictures besides the fact that we can see them, NOT being part of a family album anymore.

As Burn Magazine we look at this project with big admiration and respect for the work done by the ones who decided to save and present these images. In its dramatic beauty this project is an extraordinary homage to life,  full of meanings for identity of photography.

~ Diego Orlando


Related links

Lost & Found


47 Responses to “lost & found”

  • This is one of the most amazing features that I’ve seen on Burn. How soon we forget the horrific tragedy that occurred in Japan. What an incredible reminder this is.

    The photographs are not fulfilling their original intent, but rather much much more. They have become abstract works of art depicting heartbreak and loss.

    What a great idea to save and preserve these. Way to go, Burn.

  • Beautiful and haunting…

  • I understand the effort to return photos to their owners. I don’t understand presenting ruined photos as art. Would they have been interesting had they been ruined in a basement because of a broken pipe?

    As is often the case, I just don’t get it. There are many excellent artists to who create art intentionally that can’t get their stuff shown.

  • Oh god, this is wonderful! I think this project achieves exactly what it sets out to do. It is interesting to image who these people were and what may have happened to them.

    Jim – Generally I’d agree with you. No it wouldn’t be interesting if it was water damage from a broken pipe. But because of the catastrophe that caused this damage I think this project is significantly different.

    “There are many excellent artists to who create art intentionally that can’t get their stuff shown.”
    Heh, but thats just how it is and always will be.

  • the art wasn’t in the intentional making of the photos but in the curation of the collaborative efforts with nature set within the context of the optimism within the tragedy. just gorgeous…multi-layered and gorgeous.

  • My first thought was to agree with Jim, even be more harsh. Exploitative kitsch, to put it kindly. But then I came around more to burning*michelle’s point of view, only more so. It kind of goes to show the pathos of our human endeavors. Nature can take any old object and make art as good or better than anything we poor humans can conceive. I imagine some future in which aliens root through the debris of our inevitable extermination and find more than enough art to create an awesome human wing in every museum on Tralfamadore. Ah well, so it goes.

  • It’s a pity that burn editors didn’t see it fit to present the work within a better context. This is primarily an installation and the viewers here should have been given the opportunity to see how the work is presented see http://lostandfound311.jp/en/exhibition/tokyo1/ instead of this half baked effort by shoving a couple of images up on a site.


  • Happy I found this wonderful project here at Burn. For all the concept, the work itself, the inspirational puzzle slices of stories… the remainings or traces to it, the tragedy and collective efforts for a outcome overcoming, surviving the power of destruction ..and if that meets an artistic sensitive input I’m compelled to reinforce my thanks choir to Diego for publishing it. Ps) The editor’s note said everything. Brilliant, Diego.

  • This is one of the saddest essays I have ever seen. It almost makes me want to dig my grave, crawl in, trip a wire and cause all the dirt to tumble down on top of me. Except I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated and I have no desire to climb into the crematorium or onto the pyre and set myself on fire.

    What a statement about the ephermal nature of life – one that poses the question, why do we bother?

    Yet, we do, and somehow, this tells me why we do and why, as hopeless as hope ultimately is, we continue to hope.

  • this is real art !
    of course it is not ”photography” but something else.

  • Good grief, Frostfrog. They are just water damaged photos, not a commentary on the suckiness of life!

  • Imants, there’s nothing half-baked in the slideshow above, even relative to the show proper in Tokyo. If anything the two approaches re-inforce one another. The simultaneous ideas of memory-fade and cataclysmic loss are operating here. Look at the above as the journalistic equivalent of the effort you link to on the gallery walls.

    It has been said that when your house is burning, the most important belonging to remove are the photographs. Most everything else can be replaced. I wonder, when these images are returned to the rightful owner, how their emotional value and worth increases? Collected together, the similarity in the physical degradation is shown in the Burn presentation, as well as in Imants’ link. It’s a memory book of a shared loss, a shared Hell, even shared grief and recuperation.

  • Have you seen the show? I have and it is not much of an effort here.

  • It’s a degree of magnitude. This slideshow has led us to be introduced by you to the gallery link; the all-encompassing images taken of the Tokyo show in turn leads us to imagine the show itself. It’s still a reality once-removed. Now imagine all of the family snapshots lost in the Tsunami – if they could be gathered – filling an auditorium or stadium. The effect increases again, making the gallery show a lesser experience, right?

    Calling the slideshow here half-baked because we are removed from the gallery experience would be equivalent to saying all internet slideshows presented are not worth viewing because thay remove us from a more direct and valued experience of seeing the image/story live, in the flesh. I’d agree the experience here may be inferior, but it’s hardly a waste of my time.

    Family photos were gathered after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. I remember an image of mouldy photographs laid out on tables to be claimed by rightful owners. A morgue of photographs, waiting to be identified by loved ones.

  • @ aitken, I don’t see those arguments as similar. Stezaker is making art out of found photographs and the argument is about whether it should be eligible for a photo prize. This exhibit is just making pathos out of found photographs. Pathos seems to be a recent trend here. Taken together, this, especially the sad doll heads, and to a lesser extent the zoo pictures all remind me of my dear old aunt Eve and her taste for sad clown drawings and cat figurines. To be art, or certainly Art, something more than simple pathos is required.

    Regarding the other argument, I like the burn presentation much better than Imants’ link. The gallery presentation strikes me as way too busy.

  • ”burn is an evolving journal for emerging photographers”
    i think this must change to..
    ”burn is an evolving journal for emerging people who use photography for art”

  • Photography is about communication, communicating some kind of story that brings about awareness…what that is that awareness is about as disparate as the folk making the ‘photographs’ and the viewers reading them…awareness may be about the outside world, others (as in documentary/journalism), it may be about the self (for both practionier and audience), it may be about the form and practice and an act of working with ‘photographs/images’ themselves…and they are ALL valid…in fact the same ‘story’ can be viewed not only many ways, but the person telling the story (artist, photographer, curator, magazine/newspaper, gallery) can use the same materials in myriad ways…that is the beauty of photography as a practice to begin with….and, for me, should be celebrated in its entirety because that cosmos (the photographic world) is in truth the cosmos of all our story telling and listening: fecund….

    “lost & found’ is a powerful and thoughtful and humane and important project, for all the reasons i scribbled above…and it makes NO difference (in the lessening of its power) that its presented here in a truncated, individualized, aestheticized version, or as shown in a clausterphobic, overwhelming room filled to the ceiling with the voices of these lost pictures/families, or if its seen as an essay in a magazine…they’re all legitimate and none of them lessen the impact…though, for sure, it seems to me, the originali exhibition contains its most dramatic and important and profound incarnation…i can’t imagine being able to stay in that room for long without feeling lost and overwhelmed and just heart-broken….here, at BURN, the effect is different, but none the less powerful…yes, these family pictures recovered have been aesthecized by their selection, and they are just extraordinary beautiful ‘artifacts’ themselves but what cannot be lost is the context and even that brought these out….

    as ‘pictures’ they’re gorgeous, as testimony, they’re heartbroken..and if folk are bothered, it is important that people remember WHY these pictures were recovered and exhibited…less about the art world and infinitely more about what they represent, both loss and continuation and continuity…from the detritus and debris comes the life and lives that remain…

    while i usually often agree with Imants, I think he’s missed the point…using the same argument, all picture projects should be reduced to one incarnation and that is not only an unfortuante way of thinking, but one that should be rejected, a priori…

    for me too, the power of this project lay in that exhibition room and in, i hope, the remembrance of excactly why it is most people take pictures and construct family albums and how each of us is tiny and nearly invisible and but by the grace of our connection to others, somehow manage a place amid the world….

    and sidney: i read that review….yes, the author is still thinking as photography as a one dimensional act…when in truth, photography contains the same breadth and depth of the way we live and countenance that living…

    now, if only the world, and the critiques, were as catholic and expansive in their willingness to open to awareness…in whichever way it yiels….

    thank you burn


    oh for sure an installation is the best way to see these pictures..but how can we show an installation? we have a shot of the installation of course…maybe we can still add it..not so sure it would do a damn thing for viewers…honestly i think it just does not work…an installation is an experience…the net just is not good to try and rep a “living experience”…so much of what photography is all about cannot be shown on the computer screen…if you can figure out a good way to do it we welcome your input for actually getting it done…i never feel satisfied showing my work on the computer screen…nothing of what i actually do for example can be shown here properly..nor your work either….again, show us what you mean in a way that works Imants…

    thanks for your input…


    i am ONLY here with Burn to show the work of artists who cannot get their work shown (like Imants) or provide a platform for the voice of Jim Powers……..please name somebody, show us, help us out please…i am ready to take a look anytime at anyone you think is not being fairly represented…

    cheers, david

  • Those pictures show me the vulnerability of humans, here pictures are literally wiped out from the paper, but at the same time I know, that those families are partly wiped away, too. That has a really blood chilling effect.
    During Photokina was a small exhibition in the same hall we had our booth – “After the Tsunami” with pictures before and after this disaster. We forget too easily.

    Thank you for publishing this essay.

  • Photography also involves assessing, selecting, sequencing, presenting, publishing images … an art …


  • Jim – when you look at these “just water damaged photos,” you see what you see. When I look at them, I see what I see. None of us will ever see it all, but it seems to me there is a great deal here that you look at yet do not see.

  • Gerard – I’m with you on this. congrats to David and crew on the Lucie award – and what a launch to Road Trips!

  • Having accessed the show with this artwork /documentation the medium does matter. They are tactile, they are photographs on paper, they are what is found in a home, the family album (that we are rapidly replacing with a screen), it has a physical sense of place.
    How do we present it on a screen, just as they have in a documentary style of an exhibition and process. Gallery overviews goes long way to explain the work

    is very different to

  • some things are patently (for me).
    1. a photo is a moment in time, not in connection with time.
    2. for someone who ”knows” photography, also knows that these things does not become of mould, only from photoshop.
    3. i think is good to play with photography but not with ”photography”
    4. the ”work” is realy very good for me

    sorry for my bad english
    cheers, dimitris

  • photo 18.
    the nature let us only the legs for us, for human brain.
    so clever..

  • Here on burn we are restricted to a slide show and that is a problem for many.
    The first work I presented here worked because it was made to the computer screen.
    The book translation into a slide show was a flop .
    The third required more text and should have been a PDF download

    My site works ok on a ipad all one does is touch and slide but it is lousy on a computer screen.
    Right now I work in three different photo based mediums, books no problems there, installations they are working ………. the internet and something for a site like burn nothing going there asd I am restricted to a slide show.

    David’s work runs nicely here as a documented running process and it is his site we are guests

  • imant, you dont answer to me in essence. no problem for me.
    can i ask what does guest means? no opinion?

    i repeat, as ”work” is very very good for me.
    and i wanted a no-politic answer. do you believe that photo number 18, has created from nature?
    (sorry for my english)

  • perhaps the first or the second photo.. congratulations nature.
    what a parody..
    (one guest less)

  • Dimitris, regarding #18, that image was created by nature, as was every other image in the slideshow. The question isn’t really how it was created, but why it is being exhibited and what for?

    No need to apologize for your English, it’s great. Keep at it, you’ll be better than us native speakers in no time. It’s the thought that counts most.

  • ”The question isn’t really how it was created”
    thanks mw..
    this is the point for me (who is the photographer? human beeing or the nature?)
    did we talk in this presentation about emerging photographers or is this presentation a break?

    either nature either photoshop, the first photographs are ”photographs”. these are hybrids, good work (real art) but hybrids, not ”true” photographs.

  • natural emergence a bit like osmosis

  • lets finish it.
    perhaps is nature (:-P)
    i accept your answer imants, not hybrid, osmosis :-)
    (sorry for my personal opinion, i think it musted be an agreement opinion)
    cheers, dimitris apostolos (mitsosmt01)

  • I don’t know if this is of any significance or interest but for example this essay does absolutely nothing to me whatsoever. I feel no more empathy for those stricken by these awful circumstances than I did before the first viewing on Burn. I’m trying to see what everyone else is touched by just don’t get it, kinda like a friend of mine who just doesn’t understand my love of William Eggleston’s photography.

  • awful circumstances or the circumstances are awful (it is different)
    i dont understand paul. the theme is not like or dislike (I LIKE THE WORK)
    your example with eggleston is not correct for the situation, the photos of eggleston are ”photos”, someone like them, someone do not.
    the situation is about the photographer and the photos. who is the phtographer (nature or a person)? are these ”photographs” (or just images of art)?
    i didn’t take an answer on it. only positions who reminds me of politics, for example..”natural emergence a bit like osmosis”

    if the rules of burn are only like-dislike (like facebook), tell me.

  • Dimitris…

    The theme is whatever I feel like just as it should be exactly the same for you. I wasn’t comparing these images with Eggleston’s photos I was only comparing my blasé reaction to this essay with the same feeling/reaction some feel towards Eggleston’s work.

  • Paul your reaction does not surprise me at all. Most here are reacting to what happened not the images themselves. Here on burn with the over saturated colours things look aesthetically pleasing and without the text the responses would be very different.
    Get together with some people and a gallery and apply to host it in Spain if that is possible

  • As for technique it is very akin to using light on film in a box called a camera

  • imants, paul, we talk about images here, about aesthetically pleasing, about feelings..
    sorry, i thought we talked about photographs.
    about moments in time..

    i’m very sorry, i wanted to forgive me all of you.
    excuse me because i didn’t understand.
    wrong place for me..

  • Dimitris…

    No worries, stay with us and keep on posting comments round here on Burn :)!

  • paul, to know him is to love him :-)

    every image that comes from a camera ”is” photograph, but (i say).. it is not a ”photograph”. for example..
    1. if i paint a photo with water colours, perhaps i will create an image-art but the photo, stops to be a ”photograph”.
    2. if i put some things in front of me and i take a photo, i have a photostat of my work, of my artistic project, not a ”photograph”.
    3. if i take a photo of a manuscript poem, i am carrying information with the help of my camera

    if we forget the moment in time, all the images (except paintings) are photographs.
    I think is unfair..

    i have no problem of any kind of art but..
    to know ”photograph”, is to love photograph :-)

    (i know that i am not polite, but i know also that i am not subservient)

  • Dimitris…

    I think when it comes down to one’s own work one can or should write their own rules. Now if the reasons and meanings in taking a photo are thoroughly honest everything in my rule book right now at this present moment are valid as a photo. Although I’m sure someone round here will remind me of some concept which isn’t valid as a photo.

  • paul, i am wondering if in the exhibition are the real photographs or photos of the photographs :-)
    i m wondering who wrote the rules of this.
    dont you think that there is a difference in beetween these two?

    once again, sorry for my english, you must learn greek :-)

  • these ”things” are photoshop my friend, nature gives other colours.
    my poor opinion is, we talk about smthing different than the photos which had selected from 500 people.
    of course this is only my poor opinion, as a photographer who have seen things 32 years.
    (perhaps wrong opinion, but i own this FREE opinion)

  • Dimitris…

    Does the fact that photoshop was probably involved in these images trouble you?

  • does the fact that my son is probably from another fother? (just joke :-) )

    yes, for your question. if we are talking about nature who has created this photos i have problem with this presentation if it is full of photoshop and nature is only advertisement. where are the ”originals” to admire them (and nature)?
    if we are talking about human interference, what is the benefit of the text? these are very good without text, without the ”help” of nature (because there are not real products of nature)

    the second image is so good for me. i repeat, the whole work is very good for me.

    listen paul, we are not talking here alone, they are reading us.
    let people decide whose opinion is ”valid as a photo”.
    let people decide what ”photo” means and what ”image” means.
    i think you agree that these two, are not the same.

    (dont ask me questions please, dont tell me about my value, tell your opinion, i wanted dont come back)
    cheers, dimitris from greece.

  • :'(
    i am very very sorry.

    i had a pm from an editor of burn with some photos of the exhibition. it seems that all the photos are ”real”. i believe (now) that are real, no photoshop, my photo-eyes tell me this.
    sorry paul, sorry to all.

    i love photograph and i am very angry when ”images” take place from her, and we call them ”photographs”. i have explain it. i want to forget the half of the 14 comments i wrote. i was wrong.
    yes paul, burn has his own rules. i must stay only in photos, ”photos” in my opinion.
    no problem of me with all kind of arts. i leave you as i begun..
    ”this is real art !
    of course it is not ”photography” but something else.”

    sorry again, and i hope my english text passes (at least) my meaning.

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