Earthquakes through children’s eyes

An exhibit of photographs shows how children see earthquakes

HEALING THROUGH IMAGES. Kids from Christchurch, New Zealand take photos of their city after it was devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – The ground shakes. Gravity goes haywire. Walls attempt to hold up roofs, but many fail. Long wounds rip apart roads, backyards, parking lots and the floors of churches, malls and homes.

This goes on for an eternity.

Such was the harrowing experience of children from Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand, devastated by earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.

“See Through My Eyes,” an exhibit at the Yuchengco Museum in Makati, offers compelling photographs taken by the children of Christchurch after the quakes. Running only until July 5, Friday, the exhibit is a testament to mankind’s ability to rise above the terror of natural disasters.

PHOTOS OF HOPE. Hope underlies tragedy in these photos by the kids of Christchurch

Art as healing

Like the Philippines, New Zealand sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an area in the Pacific Ocean with a continuous series of volcanic arcs and belts and tectonic plate movements, making it among the most susceptible in the world to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

There is much to be learned from how New Zealand handles the aftermath of its earthquakes. “See Through My Eyes,” a project of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) New Zealand and the New Zealand Embassy in the Philippines, is part of the healing process.

LEARNING FROM QUAKES. Visitors can also read more about earthquakes through informative graphics that are part of the exhibit

The 24 young photographers, aged 11 to 14, learned basic photography skills from workshops led by professional photographer Stuart Hale. They were then given digital cameras which they used to take photos of how their lives and their community have changed (or stayed the same) after the earthquakes.

UNICEF Philippines representative Tomoo Hozumi agrees that creative pursuits can both heal and empower children.

CAPTIONED BY KIDS. The children were also asked to come up with captions for their photos

“Forms of expressive activity, such as photography, help in the psychosocial recovery of the affected children. I hope this exhibition enhances understanding, compassion and commitment to disaster awareness and preparedness,” he says.

Message of hope

UNBEATEN. A photo depicts the resilience of Christchurch residents

Walking through the exhibit is like walking through Christchurch itself, with immortalized scenes of residents jogging beside earthquake-caused fissures or children playing in playgrounds damaged by the disaster.

Beautiful churches held up by steel containers, cracks on the ground, a dog rescued and then adopted, are just some of the haunting imagery seen through the eyes of Christchurch kids.

DESPITE THE CRACKS. Christchurch remains whole despite the cracks

Despite the exhibit being borne from tragedy, the photos therein carry a message of hope. The photographers, after all, are children, the most idealistic and optimistic of survivors. –

‘See Through My Eyes’ runs until July 5 at the Water Dragon Gallery, Yuchengco Museum, Makati City. For more information, email or call (02) 889-1234.

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