By Yuriko Nakao

The 3.11 Portrait Project brings smiles to the victims of the triple-whammy disaster through the power of the photograph

After the magnitude 9.0 earthquake rocked Japan in March 11 last year, as a photographer for a newswire service, I had many chances to document reality, which was often depressing and shocking. However, at times, I would feel rewarded when my work brought positive results by inviting support and compassion from around the world to those who were suffering. However, still, the support was often not directed specifically to the person pictured in my shots, which often made me feel helpless.

Japanese photographer Nobuyuki Kobayashi, 42, had experienced a similar feeling. His main field of photography was mostly to shoot commercial photos but past assignments included regions in conflict, and disasters such as the earthquake which hit off the coast of Sumatra, the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the attacks on 9/11. As what many Japanese photographers did after Japan experienced the worst catastrophe since World War Two, Kobayashi went up north to take photographs after his friend in Iwate prefecture asked him to. He shot pictures of the disaster and rubble in northeastern Japan, but came to question whether that was the role he should play.

His conclusion was no.

“People were striving to move forward despite their difficulty and I hoped by photographing their portrait, it would offer them courage and hope, and possibly give them momentum to take a positive step forward towards the future,” Kobayashi said.

“I met people who had lost their albums and thought maybe I can help them create a new start for them by creating new memories,“ he added.