Photographers' Blog

Still missing – MH370

September 5, 2014

Beijing, China

By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Almost six months have passed since the Malaysian Airlines MH370 disappeared. Although authorities concluded that the plane crashed in the remote Indian Ocean and lost all the passengers, many family members refuse to accept that conclusion. They hope that they are still alive.

Zhiliang, whose fiance was onboard Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 which disappeared on March 8th, is silhouetted at an empty house which he had planned to decorate with her for their marriage, after he shows the house during an interview with Reuters in Tianjin, August 26, 2014.      REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

However, public interest towards this incident has faded, so I decided to record what these family members are still going through and shed light on this mysterious incident once again.

I thought that portrait-style pictures showing family members together with the missing passengers’ mementos would tell a story.

Before I started the project, I assumed I would find a couple of families at most, but the victims’ relatives really wanted to speak out about the incident and how much they are suffering now.

One family member, who liked my idea, introduced me to the relatives of other victims, who in turn introduced me to others, a bit like a relay.
Before I met them, I had assumed it would be very difficult to ask them to stand in front of my camera. But they were really cooperative as they were afraid the public is forgetting the incident, so they wanted to share their stories through my pictures.

Most people didn’t need much convincing to stand in front of the camera. Only a few refused, usually because they didn’t want their relatives or neighbours to know their family members are missing.

Cheng Liping, whose husband Ju was onboard Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 which disappeared on March 8th, shows a family photo featuring her missing husband

For the same reason, some people declined to show their faces or didn’t want to use their real names, even though they felt comfortable with the camera.

In this case, I didn’t push them and I had to invent some different ways to photograph them.

Finding the right object to show their grief was quite simple because they had already kept objects, or mementos, with them since the incident; objects which now have a special meaning for them.

The relatives often had more than one memento and these included a wide variety of things, such as photos, dolls, pets, books, furniture, a whole house, and records of chat messages. Every item held a different meaning for each person.

Zhang Yongli, whose daughter Zhang Qi was onboard Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 which disappeared on March 8th, looks at his daughter's dolls as he poses for a picture during an interview with Reuters in Beijing July 22, 2014.   REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

I was very careful not to hurt their feelings or invade their privacy when taking these pictures.

My first priority was showing my respect for the family members, so before photographing them, I would wait to ask their permission to take pictures until I felt that they were ready and would always spend some time listening to them talk. Sometimes this brought tears to my eyes.

This incident was different from any other disaster story I’ve covered because we still don’t know what exactly happened to the missing plane and passengers.

The family members desperately want to know what happened to their loved ones and where the missing plane is.

I don’t think we should stop searching for the plane until we can find out what happened. That will be the only way to comfort the grieving family members and stop their crying.

Comments
One comment so far | RSS Comments RSS

Mr. Kim,

Came across the photos in Mr. Nick Macfie’s article yesterday, very much struck by the solemness they invoked.

To lessen the grievousness of the families I have a plausible reason for the failure of the extensive sea and air searches to spot any MH 370 debris.

In the headlong searches launched, searchers appeared to have forgotten to wear anti glare sunglasses and camera filter (fitted on binoculars) which greatly reduce light reflected on water surface. See following videos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNbg4Go8N R0 1min
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8NE1WkM6 VM 2min
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz6i548lj CE 3min
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEmBG_ku9 jk 1min

If they had been in use the 22m object shown in satellite pic would not had been missed.

Additionally, had the search aircrafts recorded videos using HD cameras fitted with polarized light filters, and transmitted them for viewing by experts, the sighting capability would have been enhanced several times.

Since some floating debris is still out there, would families of missing passengers want a new air search given that the first one was bungled ? Or wait for up to another year for result of the new undersea search ? I think they should be informed of the blunder and be given the option to make the choice.

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