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Andrew Burton September 28, 2012

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Japan.

The Kikawada family praying together at the destroyed remains of their house. Rikuzentakata, Japan 2011

Andrew Burton (b. 1987, USA) is a freelance photojournalist and multimedia producer based in New York. His work has been published in and distributed through The New York Times, Newsweek, TIME, Reuters, USA Today, CNN and The Oregonian, amongst others. He has a degree in journalism with a focus in photography from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Prior to becoming a photographer Andrew interned at Getty Images and completed a fellowship with the Carnegie and Knight Foundation. His work has been honored with awards from POYi, the Hearst Foundation and the College Photographer of the Year. He was a student at Eddie Adams XXII and has also been selected for private workshops at VII Photo Agency, and the 7th UNESCO Youth Conference.

About the Photograph:

“This image was made on March 20, 2011 nine days after the earthquake and tsunami had struck the coast of Japan. In those first days after the tsunami it had been hard to find people returning to their homes — the government had quickly set up refugee centers and were banning locals from heading back to their homes. I was traveling with two other photographers and a reporter, and most of the photos we had been making were of search and rescue crews, barren landscapes and the ruins of various towns. We were nearing the end of another long day in the town of Rikuzentakata when I came across the Kikawada family— at this point, they were the only local people I had seen return to their home.”

“I approached them quietly, obviously this was an extremely sensitive time, and I knew there would probably be a language barrier. To my surprise, they were immediately welcoming, as is the case in many of these situations. The family recognized the importance to document what had occurred. They largely ignored me while they went about praying over the home and leaving an offering of oranges, drinks, candy, cookies and fish-shaped cake. After they finished, they explained the house was where the father’s grandmother had died — a victim of the tsunami. Night was quickly descending, they were headed back to the refugee camp and I needed to find the other journalists, so we parted ways, but it was a rare and quiet moment I won’t soon forget.”