Capturing a Nation on Film Before it Vanishes

Shuuichi Endou Tuvalu Island Photo

Image source: Shuuichi Endou/Tuvalu Overview

Tuvalu, made up of four small coral-reef islands and five atolls off the coast of Australia, will be one of the first to go as sea levels continue to rise. Shuuichi Endou decided his response was to take 10,000 photographs, almost one for every person on the island to capture the spirit and essence of the people, reports the Japan Times Online. When the island is gone, and the population has dispersed and assimilated into area nations, will the photographs be the only thing keeping this nation together? Endo runs Tuvalu Overview, a non-profit devoted to providing lectures and organizing eco-tours to the tiny nation. The photographs, Endo hopes, will also be used to teach Japanese something the Tuvalese have long known - how to be happy - and hopefully change their lifestyle. The people of Tuvalu are happy all the time, as demonstrated by the photographs in the exhibit.

In school, Endo studied architecture in the hopes of designing green buildings, but was told there is no money in this. So, he took a job with a general contractor and became a businessman. Shortly thereafter Endo learned of Tuvalu and its fate. He quit his job and developed a proposal to the Tuvalese government to help them build up business in order to fund environmental protection. The proposal was rejected but Endo continued to travel to the islands from Japan to both document the destruction and also to document the strange phenomenon he discovered there.

While there is impending doom to the residents, the people are still happy, unworried about money and not tied down with schedules and time. Thinking back to his days working in Japan, Endo wonders what meaning there is to a life tied down in the rat-race with expensive suits and time schedules. He hopes the 10,000 smiling faces in the photos will translate this message to his home country.

The photographs will be on display at the Shinozaki Bunka Plaza in Tokyo until December 11, 2008. :Japan Times Online::Tuvalu Overview
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