Project Hohoemi | A Survivor’s Story

While Megan Lacy (http://meganelacy NULL.com/photo NULL.html)photographed these beautiful kids…

I got to hear first hand a tsunami survivor’s story.

Tears were streaming down this grandmother’s face as she watched her grand-babies have their photos taken. She expressed that she was just so very grateful that they were both alive and healthy and here on this earth to even have their photos taken. Her grandson was three and in her carel when the tsunami hit. Thankfully they were able to evacuate to safety. Her daughter was eight months pregnant and working at the school when the alarms sounded. She too was able to avoid the storm. To this women, that day is still very very real. Even though I don’t speak Japanese I could understand the emotions that she was sharing with us as she told her story. And I was also blessed by the thankfulness she was expressing. Thankful for life. Thankful for protection. And thankful for the gift of her grandchildren. It was an honor to be able to listen to her and give her a hug. And even though taking family photos for survivors does not seem very impacting and life altering, after talking to this women I could tell that what we were doing during Project Hohoemi was touching their hearts.

Project Hohoemi | Just Say “No” To Public Displays of Affection

I learned a great deal about the Japanese culture during this photo mission trip to Ishinomaki. I knew before going that you never really see couples showing affection to one another in public. But for some reason it did not dawn on me that the same would hold true while taking photos. I ask my clients to hug or put their arms around each other every time I shoot. So I just naturally did the same thing while photographing the people of Ishinomaki. You should have seen the reactions I got. Couples would laugh and actually back away from each other. Totally the opposite of what I was asking them to do. I was actually able to capture this women’s reaction when we asked her husband to put his arm around her. He was totally for it, but she however was not. She refused his arm and humored us by holding his hand. I must say that I love learning about other cultures by immersion and this was definitely a learning experience.

This sweet women wanted us to stay and visit once the photos were done, but we had to go next door to take more pictures.  However, she waited for us and once she saw us leaving her neighbors home she met us in the street and insisted we come back in for pears,oranges, and ENERGY DRINKS. Yes. That is correct. Apparently Japanese people love energy drinks. So we knelt on her heated rug and enjoyed her hospitality. Since I don’t speak Japanese I spent most of this time just in awe of the fact that I was sitting in their home as a welcomed guest enjoying the gift of food that she insisted I eat every bite of. Such an amazing experience. One I will never forget.  The hospitality and gift giving of this culture just blows me away.

Project Hohoemi | Portraits and Raw Squid

The third day of shooting in Ishinomaki for Project Hohoemi was by far my favorite day. I had the privilege of shooting in people’s homes.  Due to rain or mobility issues some people were not able to come to us to get photos taken. So we went to them. I was welcomed in to their homes and treated as an honored guest. The  first family featured in this post were so unbelievably kind. After I took their photos they invited me to sit with them and began feeding me. And I ate everything they set in front of me. I was so humbled by their kindness that even raw squid was not going to deter me from being grateful for this experience and their hospitality.

Below: My sweet translator Jade being snuggled in the middle. She is spending a year in Ishinomaki to help the people in need.

The next family did not know we were coming. The mom of the family above insisted we go to a few more homes to take photos. Even though they were not expecting me they kindly accepted me into their home. My time with them was very brief so I did not get to hear their story or even learn how they are all related. But I snapped photos just the same.

Project Hohoemi | Assisted Living & Karaoke

For me day two of Project Hohoemi was spent at a kindergarten, photos coming soon, and an assisted living home. Many of the people living here are very capable of living on their own, but lost their homes in the 2011 tsunami. The director of the facility, pictured below on the far left, made things happen for us for sure. He told everyone that they were getting their photos taken and didn’t take no for an answer. But he did it in such a likable way that his assertiveness was almost hidden behind that smile. He used that same charming assertiveness on us after shooting when he demanded that we stay for coffee, snacks, and karaoke. And there was no shying away from singing. Again with the assertiveness.  It was so fun though. And I loved being able to smile with these wise people. I wish I had more time to sit and chat with them about their lives. So many great stories to be shared I am sure.

And here is a little behind the scenes action. Photos taken with my trusty Iphone

Project Hohoemi | Indoor Natural Light Studio

If I had to sum up this post in only five words then this is what I would say…

OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE.

I am a natural light, outdoor photographer. The number one thing I look for when shooting is not a neat backdrop or a pretty setting. Oh no. It’s all about the light. Light is number one for me. Natural light that is. So when the decision was made to shoot in a make-shift studio I swear my pulse started racing. I’ve never ever shoot with a backdrop before. And even though we were using natural light that was flooding in from the windows I was still nervous to shoot in such conditions. But we only had three days to photograph everyone who signed up for Project Hohoemi and we were not going to let a little typhoon and some rain hold us back. I really hope that even though this was a stretch for me I was still able to take photos that these awesome people will enjoy.

Project Hohoemi | Sweet Sisters

The second day of Project Hohoemi was spent photographing sweet families. These precious girls and their beautiful mom were a blast to shoot. Such joyful smiles from everyone. See more image from this amazing trip by clicking here and here.

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