Photohoku: Bringing disaster-stricken families together with photographs

Frederick Jon Chen
Frederick Jon Chen

Imagine this: you’re a bright-eyed youth with a passion for helping out communities in need, disillusioned by seemingly trivial “let’s repaint an old school building for the poor”-type projects. At the same time you have an interest in photography, which you really want to put to good use, but haven’t had the opportunity to.

That was the scenario Frederick Jon Chen found himself in a few years ago, until he came across Photohoku, an unconventional project that allowed him to use his photography skills to do good for disaster-stricken communities.

It turned out to be more meaningful, says Frederick, than many of the community involvement projects he’s been involved in. 

Frederick Jon Chen 

After years of volunteer work, “I had become disenchanted, as it were, with my role, fundamentally,” he shares. “By coating a wall of a school atop a mountain in Sa Pa with fresh paint, were we creating and imposing new expectations on our recipients which – crucially – were previously non-existent?”

In 2013, he came across Photohoku, a photo-giving movement formed in response to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. “Unlike photojournalists who travel to Tohoku mining relentlessly and insensitively for photo opportunities in the dismantled region, we (Photohomies) travel up to northeast Japan to make and give photos to those affected by the events of March 2011,” he shares. (by Natalie Koh)

Read the whole article and see more pictures on

The Children of China’s Cancer Slum

Drug Costs Putting Young Lives at Risk

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Li Defang remembers the day she considered giving up on her granddaughter — a four-year-old battling leukemia. 

Money had dried up, and little Zhao Jing was in a hospital in Hefei city in eastern China. She was struggling, feverish and coping with an infection. In those desperate hours back in October 2014, Li recalls whispering sadly to her: “If one day grandma runs out of money for your medicines, maybe I will have to abandon you.”

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg

Such life-and-death calculations aren’t that rare in a China that is home to the world’s largest number of cancer cases, and where patients can sometimes pay among the highest prices in the world for drug treatments. For the past year, Li and her granddaughter have lived in a slum near the hospital. Called Wujianong, the tenement is home to about thirty other families who have also journeyed hundreds of miles to seek better care for their sick children. Here they live in damp, moldy rooms just off a narrow street strewn with plastic bags and muddy puddles. They’ve all found that cancer can be a financial catastrophe in a society where private insurance is a rarity and many costs for serious illnesses aren’t covered by government insurance.

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg 

Surging health-care costs are turning into one of the biggest threats to the world’s second largest economy and its consumers. About $115 billion will be spent on pharmaceuticals in China this year. As patients struggle to pay, international drug companies face slower growth in the country and government pressure to curb prices. For families, their biggest adversary isn’t only the disease, but the prohibitive cost of care. 

Read the whole article and see more pictures on Bloomberg News:

Qilai Shen is a Shanghai, China based photographer with over 10 years of experience in editorial, corporate, and portrait photography.


Be inspired by these Thai transgender models’ stories

Shiraz Randeria
Shiraz Randeria

Apple Model agency opened the world’s first transgender division this year, but these girls have long been standing up for their beliefs – no matter the cost

Apple models has been going for thirteen years, but this year opened the world’s first transgender division. “It’s good news,” says Noam Lev, co-director of Bangkok’s Apple Model agency. “Some of our transgender girls have had problems with their passports; you have a beautiful woman turn up at airport immigration and their photo, maybe taken years before, is of a guy. So even being able to address that issue officially is another step in the right direction.”

Shiraz Randeria
Shiraz Randeria

But while the fashion industry, (and the rest of the world), seemingly takes leaps forward in terms of trans acceptance, signing transgender models is just another day at the office for many Bangkok based modelling agencies. “It’s not a new thing here in Bangkok – many of the agencies have had trans models but they’ve always been pushed as girls, so the clients would never know. If a model became very successful, then it was easier for them to come out, but otherwise they were always in hiding. What we’re doing is being upfront: We tell the girls that we represent them as who they are.”

Read the whole article and see more pictures on dazed digital:

Shiraz Randeria is a freelance editorial and creative director working for magazines and fashion clients. He is based between London, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

China: when an only child dies

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters
Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Zheng Qing was devastated when she heard the news last month that China will scrap the one-child policy. It was too late to have a second child. She thought it was a great honour to follow the one child policy at that time but now feels the rule has let her down badly.

She and her husband are among more than a million grieving Chinese parents who have lost the only child that the government allowed them to have. 

Zheng’s husband, Fan Guohi, 56, has petitioned the government to give „shidu“ parents, those who have lost their only child, both moral and financial support. Their son died from a car accident in 2012. His loss left the couple „emotionally ruined“, Zheng said.

„One-child families are walking a tightrope,“ Fan said. „Once you lose your child, you lose all hope.“

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Read the whole article and see more pictures on Wider Image Reuters:

Kim Kyung-Hoon studied photojournalism at a university in South Korea before beginning his career at a local newspaper. In 2002 he joined Reuters‘ bureau in Seoul as a staff photographer and is currently based in Beijing after working for six years in the Tokyo bureau. He has covered a range of stories from the daily spot news, political news and disaster stories to sports events.“

Wider Image: In-depth visual reports from across the world by Reuters, the world’s largest news agency. Updated daily with new stories.