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By Nattha Keenapan 21 July 2006 " THAI DAY "
A photojournalist gives child tsunami survivors a chance to face their trauma through
While photographers rush to Indonesia to document the tsunami that hit Java this week, Masaru Goto, a Japanese photojournalist, is still busy with the previous one that devastated coastal areas around the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004.
Masaru’s work does not involve photos of death or destruction from the catastrophe,
The exhibition is part of a series of creative workshops initiated by Masaru and a few friends from the Insight Out non-governmental organization. They taught 129 children from badly-hit Phang Nga province and Indonesia’s Banda Aceh how to take photographs
“When the tsunami happened I went to Phang Nga and stayed until New Year’s Day.
Masaru, also a social and human rights activist, received awards from the Mother Jones 50 Crows Foundation and the World Health Organization River of Life photo competition
Victims normally become an object of the photographers’ camera whenever disasters happen, however Masaru turned things around by letting them get behind the lens, snapping photos of whatever they wanted to present to the world. He started with 13 children at a village in Aceh in March, leaving them a digital camera which he returned to pick up a few days later. After looking at the images, he found many of the kids’ pictures were of their homes, which were left in ruins.
“I told them, ‘Take the pictures of what you think is important to you and what you want to show to the people outside,’” Masaru says. “In a way, it’s like they were facing trauma through a viewfinder.”
The project expanded to include another 64 children, aged eight to 18, at two international camps for families displaced by the tsunami − Barak Lot Kilat and Barak Sibreh − and a boarding school. Then he brought in 65 more children, aged eight to 15, from Phang Nga’s Ban Bang Muang, Ban Tung Wah and Ban Bang Nieng communities.
While most of the children participating from Aceh are Muslims, those in Phang Nga include Buddhists, Muslims, Moken sea gypsies and children of Burmese migrant workers.
Photojournalist Masaru Goto’s has given children who lived through the 2004 tsunami
“We wanted to see what would come from children in two different communities, of different backgrounds. What would their images be? In a way, it seems that pictures
The kids’ pictures do tell several stories. Many reflect their memories, including photos of ruins, fishing boats, a dead tree and empty beaches, yielding a sense of loneliness and emptiness. Some captured living conditions and the way of life inside
“This is very impressive. In the future, I hope the workshop will help trigger their inspiration to become professional photographers. I will be very happy if one day some of them do become photographers,” says Goto.
A small exhibition featuring some of the 129 photos is on display at Kinokuniya bookstore at Siam Paragon and will run until the end of this month. The main photo exhibition will be displayed at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand in December, with each photo featuring a caption in the form of a story written by the children themselves. Also, the children will be taught to produce their own magazines, which will be released around October and include their photos and writing.
“This is very important. At least they have a voice. Little by little, it’s building up a sense of dignity and a sense of healing. It gives them confidence and it will allow them and their communities to have a collective say, a collective expression,” says Tew, adding that many parts of the tsunami-affected areas remain dismal places. Assistance has decreased, many NGOs have left and the Thai government’s financial infusion to revive tourism was only top-down aid that did not reach many of those who really needed it.
The photo project, Tew says, has somehow helped break down the segregation of a multi-cultural society, with children playing and working together on a collective project.
“When the wave hit, when we lost our loved ones, we become, for one moment perhaps,