The Asahi Shimbun and Mitsubishi Corporation sponsored The Great East Japan Earthquake Press Photo Exhibition at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Terminal, documenting the horrific earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe in Northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011. Organized in three stages, the exhibition displays images by photographers at the Asahi Shimbun from the time the disaster struck, through months of relief efforts, and some of the present-day situation.
The photos, especially those in the first stage, are heartbreaking. It is difficult to see the destruction of land, homes, and businesses, as well as the devastated Tohoku residents, but it’s important to remember. The before-and-after photographs in the second stage focus on the removal of debris and the efforts by residents and volunteers to return the affected areas to normal. Some photos depict shops opening for business and children playing, but there is still much work to be done.
Thousands of people continue to live in temporary housing, unsure when – if ever – they will return to their homes. While cleanup continues, there is still a problem with how and where to dispose of it. The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains dire. If I had one criticism of the exhibition, it would be that there aren’t enough photos or information about the circumstances in areas of Fukushima and Daiichi.
But there is hope in those photographs, and we can see progress in towns and in individuals. Out of the tragedy have come important projects, such as the work done by the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, which is featured in the exhibition. Anderson is one of two JET Program participants who perished on March 11, and her parents, Andy and Jeanne, established the fund to keep her spirit alive while connecting people who are still recovering from the disaster.
JET alum Justin Tedaldi, who edits JQ Magazine and writes the Nippon in New York column for examiner.com, attended a special opening ceremony for the exhibition with members of local JET alumni association and dignitaries in the Japanese community. Tedaldi describes the exhibition as “very moving and powerful. I hope . . . visitors of [Grand Central Terminal] get something out of it, too.”
The Great East Japan Earthquake Press Photo Exhibition ends Monday, March 3, and it is on view from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m.