Photographer helps rebuild family albums lost to disaster

Brian Peterson is a photographer who doesn’t just take pictures, he gives them.

A Tulsa native and graduate of Bishop Kelley High School, Peterson has lived in Tokyo for 10 years with his wife and family. Following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and catastrophic tsunami that hit Japan, Peterson and his friend Yuko Yoshikawa created Photohoku to help disaster-plagued families restart their family photo albums. Photohoku is a portmanteau of photo and Tohoku, the tsunami-affected region.

Wanting to duplicate the project stateside following the deadly tornado in Moore this spring, he came up with Photoklahoma to help survivors rebuild their family albums.

Peterson was bit by the photo bug as a child, as his parents were former Tulsa Tribune managing editor Gordon Fallis and his wife, Mary Margaret Fallis, the late, former editor and publisher of Tulsalite Magazine.

Although he majored in environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Peterson had a passion for photography. He already had a portraiture business before the earthquake, after which he became involved in some projects to aid people. That’s when Yoshikawa had an idea to use instant film to help people start new family photo collections.

Initially, he thought it would be a one-off project, Peterson said. But he felt so fulfilled by the experience, they kept it up.

Once a month, he, Yoshikawa and teams of professional photographers traveled from Tokyo to communities in the tsunami-devastated regions, visiting families who lost their photos and albums, and helping them start new ones by making family portraits on instant film.

The instant film, sponsored by Fujifilm, is what makes the project particularly unique, Peterson said. With instant film, they can immediately make photos and give them, in albums, to recipients.

Instant photos can make the recipients feel secure and special, and Peterson has seen how the project has had a positive emotional and psychological impact – a way for people to move forward.

“We use the instant photos to fill the first few pages of a new family album, which we immediately present to them, along with a new camera so they can continue the albums,” Peterson explained on his website (see

On subsequent trips, they often revisit the families with portable printers, so photos they have taken with their new cameras can be added to their albums. Photohoku also does scrapbooking workshops, a 3-D instant camera workshop and other activities geared toward providing a way for recipients to restart their “photo lives” and look forward to making new memories.

So far, they have started more than 500 new photo albums, given more than 50 cameras and made more than 5,000 new portraits on instant film.

Now, they are in Moore, having visited places like Emmaus Baptist Church, the temporary campus for Briarwood Elementary School, which was destroyed in the May 20 twister.

Photohoku is also accepting used, working digital cameras to give to people in Moore and Japan, Peterson said, as well as battery chargers and memory cards.

“This is just the beginning,” said Peterson, adding his and Yoshikawa’s endeavors could be applied to other people – terminally ill children in hospitals, maybe even the homeless population.

“The future of our project is wide open,” Peterson said.

Photoklahoma at Guthrie Green

Photographer and Tulsa-native Brian Peterson, along with his friend Yuko Yoshikawa, created Photohoku to help families effected by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011 restart their photo albums.

Now, they have created Photoklahoma to help families do the same thing in Moore since this spring’s deadly tornado.

To help continue their project, they will be at Guthrie Green, 111 E. Brady St., 12-4 p.m. Sunday exhibiting a collage of their photos from Japan, as well as snapping black-and-white or color photos to raise funds – $5 for black-and-white, $10 for color.

Also, Photohoku will accept used and functioning digital cameras to share with families in Moore and Japan so they can restart their own family photo collections.

For more,

Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483


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