Gallery: The weird and wonderful faces of Japan after March 11
Liezel Strauss is proof that doing good deeds can be wholesome for the spirit. “This makes my heart sing,” says the South African expat, who’s lived in Tokyo for nearly two years.
She’s referring to the response to her charity venture, My Japan, something she makes time for in between running a busy art and design consultancy firm, BottegaTokyo, and a photographic art gallery, Subject Matter.
Her story of benevolence begins back on March 11. Strauss and her British husband, Jon, were in Tokyo when the earth started shaking. They, like many, watched the images from the northeast in disbelief and horror.
Then they worried about the nuclear accident. Then, almost a week after the disaster, they jetted to Singapore to work and take a breather. But Strauss couldn't stop thinking about her second home.
“I felt so disabled and far away from the sadness the Japanese were going through,” she recalls. “I decided to look at all the photos I had of Japan and I realized many people must have beautiful pictures of this country.”
More on CNNGo: Photojournalism at its best
And so My Japan, a crowdsourced photographic exhibition, was born. Strauss created a Facebook group and asked members a simple question: What does Japan mean to you? The response was overwhelming.
“Within the first five weeks, people from 21 countries sent in more than 400 photos,” she says. “We now have about 700 extraordinary photos.”
Call to visitors
Strauss held an exhibition in May of the 50 photos that won the most votes on Facebook. The next exhibition runs November 15 to January 9, 2012 at Nirvana, a restaurant in Tokyo Midtown.
A coffee-table book featuring 80 photographs will be available at the beginning of December. All proceeds (¥224,000 raised thus far) support Japan Emergency Network, an NGO that’s helping people in the devastated Tohoku region.
But with tourism in Japan suffering because of the March 11 disaster and ongoing nuclear crisis, My Japan is also helping the country as a whole.
“I want to spread good news about Japan. I want people to come back here and see the beauty,” says Strauss. “Japan needs visitors now more than ever.”
More on CNNGo: Around Japan in 100 days
Nirvana: 1/F Garden Terrace D-0120, Akasaka 9-7-4, Minato-ku, Tokyo, +81 (0) 3 5647 8305. Website.