Earthquake – My story in Gakujin magazine

Earlier this year, I submitted a portfolio of Rocky Mountain photographs and a short essay to Gakujin (岳人) magazine. After some time, they called me and said they liked the photographs and the captions and essay were all fine but could I send them a short essay about the March 11th earthquake and why I was still in Japan (did I love Japanese mountains so much that I wanted to stay and continue shooting them or something like that). They also asked for a few photos of Japanese mountains and a photograph of me.

I had a story already in mind because I tried to get a newspaper in my Canadian hometown interested in my experiences on the day of the quake and the following weeks. I quickly wrote out my ideas and asked my manager at work to check over my Japanese. I sent the essay along with some photos from the Japan Alps and three snaps my wife had taken of me in the mountains.

The magazine went on sale on the twelfth of August but I received a copy two days in advance. All the photos I sent were used – 6 mountain and nature images and all three of myself. My story was printed with no amendments as far as I could tell. I got four pages. The Rocky Mountain piece was not used.

The results were both pleasing and disappointing. It’s always good to see my work in print and that the story was printed as I sent it and the photos all used is encouraging. In the story, I concentrated on my experience as a foreigner in Japan with friends and family overseas pleading for me to leave with my wife and children. I also wrote about how difficult it would have been for us to leave with a mortgage and car loan, all our possessions and my job. I mean, we could leave but what about once we came back? It’s very easy, I wrote, for people in a safe place to tell me to pack my bags and flee. But what of the consequences after the initial possibility of danger has passed? I concluded the piece mentioning the decision my wife and I had made to raise our kids in Japan and about my book about the Japan Alps and how I want to promote it here. The story itself seems to be good enough and a few people have complimented me on what I wrote.

The disappointments are that the Rockies piece was not used and I am not totally satisfied with what I wrote about the earthquake. Of course, for the Rockies I sent my best collection of photographs and put my heart into the text. If they had not intended to use the photographs then I wish they had simply said so up front. Or perhaps they will use them in a later issue? As for my earthquake story I found the word limit restricting and I feel the part about Japanese mountains was just tacked on a the end. I also just titled my piece “Earthquake” (地震), thinking that they had some idea in mind. In the end, the earthquake title was used with the subtitle “The Canadian Photographer Who Is Smitten by Japanese Alpine Beauty”. The photographs show this. The text is more about the earthquake. Somehow I felt the earthquake title doesn’t work well with the mountain photographs. But if the editor was satisfied with that (I did submit the requested material eight days prior to the deadline) then I guess that’s what he wanted for the magazine.

Overall, I can’t complain. I told my story, mentioned my book, and got my photographs published yet again.

My story in Japanese has been posted here.

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