On March 11, 2011, a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the northeastern coast of Japan followed by huge tsunami waves, resulting in widespread damage. Two years later, many people in Japan are still recovering from the effects of these natural disasters. 

An exhibit of photos showing the effects, the community, and the recovery in a small Japanese town will be on display in the lobby of Cowgill Hall at Virginia Tech May 11 through 13.

What makes these photos different than countless others is that they were taken by the citizens of Iwaizumi Town — many of whom lost their homes and are still living in temporary housing — recounting the situation from their own perspectives.

In a moving effort to document the healing process and meaning of community in a town suffering following natural disaster, the Union Internationale des Femmes Architectes Japon sponsored a project to provide simple cameras to affected people in Iwaizumi Town.

Professional photographer Shoukou Hashimoto taught the Iwaizumi residents about photography, and they fully embraced the project. Citizen photographers ranging in age from 6 to 73 years old have participated over the past two years, creating photo narratives of their experiences.

The resulting exhibit is called “Daredemo Photographer,” meaning everyone can be a photographer, and the photos not only show the effects of disaster, but also show the passion the residents have for the town and their community.

“Those affected people support each other, and foster friendship despite struggling lives in temporary housing. Moreover, they can find enjoyment in such serious hardship,” said Junko Matsukawa-Tsuchida, president of UIFA Japon. “We decided to record and exhibit the step-by-step advancement of Iwaizumi as our photo message in thanks for the help given by people throughout the world.”

The exhibition at Virginia Tech will be the first time the photographs are displayed in the United States. The UIFA Japon previously exhibited the photos at a rail station in Omoto, Japan.

The exhibit is being brought to Virginia Tech thanks to a relationship between the UIFA Japon and the Virginia Tech-based International Archive of Women in Architecture Center

Donna Dunay, G.T. Ward Professor of Architecture and chair of the International Women in Architecture Archive, and Kay Edge, an associate professor of architecture, traveled to Japan not long after the earthquake to collaborate with UIFA Japon on a joint project. Dunay says she was moved by her experience there and is excited to once again collaborate with UIFA Japon to bring the Daredemo Photographer exhibit to Virginia Tech.

“When disasters happen, there is a great deal of attention and coverage initially, and then it disappears,” Dunay said. “One of the important aspects of bringing this exhibit here is that it shows that there are people who are still interested, that two years later, people still care.”

“Indeed, awful conditions at the time of March 11, 2011, had been reported by the media worldwide, but the later situation and recent progress have not been well known all over the world. I think that it is the most effective way to report the truth to the world by use of photos taken by sufferers themselves, instead of professional photographers.  Moreover, I believe that such an exhibition held at Virginia Tech is to promote friendship with Iwaizumi Town as well as to encourage people in disaster areas,” said Matsukawa-Tsuchida.

The exhibit in Cowgill Hall is free and open to the public Saturday, May 11, 1 to 5 p.m.; Sunday May 12, 2 to 11 p.m.; and, Monday May 13, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. 

Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., parking is available in the Perry Street Lots and the Perry Street Parking Garage with a visitor’s pass. A visitor’s pass may be obtained Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Visitor Information Center, located at 965 Prices Fork Road, near the intersection of Prices Fork and University City Boulevard next to the Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center. A visitor’s pass may also be obtained from the Virginia Tech Police Station, located on Sterrett Drive, outside of the Visitor Information Center hours.

After 5 p.m. and on weekends, 
free parking is available in in the Perry Street Lots and the Perry Street Parking Garage. Find more parking information online or call 540-231-3200.