Beyond the Landscapes: Ansel Adams in Manzanar

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The photography of Ansel Adams is one of the most recognizable aesthetics in photography. Just one look at a black and white landscape, and it’s easy to identify who took the photograph. But Adams did more than just capturing the beauty of the American terrain.

Tom Kobayashi, Landscape, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams.

The American photographer worked in the documentary field in 1943. Adams was to capture the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California and the Japanese-Americans who were assigned in there during the World War II. The creation of the center was from then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who signed an act to make the West Coast a military zone in case insurgence from Japanese-Americans arise, although this was not specified in the act. Around 110,000 people of Japanese descent and ancestry were moved from their homes to relocation camps. Their businesses and ownerships were forcefully removed.

Baseball game, Manzanar Relocation Center, Calif. / photograph by Ansel Adams. Tojo Miatake [i.e. Tōyō Miyatake] Family, Manzanar Relocation Center / photograph by Ansel Adams. Roy Takeno reading paper in front of office / photograph by Ansel Adams.

Perhaps this was due to the fact he and his family were very acquainted with a sick Issei (Japanese immigrant) named Harry Oye, who was picked up by the authorities and was sent o the hospital in Missouri. The event struck a chord with him.

A far cry from his iconic silver gelatin prints of landscapes, Adams focused on the injustice going on in there through family life, internees at work, recreational activities in the center. It wasn't until 1988 did the US government released an apology for the racial injustice towards the Japanese-Americans.

Nurse Aiko Hamaguchi and patient Tom Kano. Others: George Nakano, Keiko Kamahara, Fuimi Tashima; Girl and volley ball, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams. [Mrs. Yaeko Nakamura and her two children, Joyce Yuki (right) and Louise Tami (left), standing on the step at the entrance of a dwelling, Manzanar Relocation Center] / photograph by Ansel Adams.Loading bus, leaving Manzanar for relocation, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams. Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top: Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center / photograph by Ansel Adams. Monument in cemetery, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams. Monument in cemetery, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams. Mrs. Ryie Yoshizawa, teacher of fashion and designing, etc., Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California / photograph by Ansel Adams.

Images are from the Library of Congress, public domain.

2018-04-05 #culture #ansel-adams #documentary-photography #manzanar-war

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2 Comments

  1. hervinsyah
    hervinsyah ·

    Awesome eventhough he didn't crop the frame 👍👐

  2. drdrewhonolulu
    drdrewhonolulu ·

    I am happy that you are sharing this. It is very relevant given what President Trump is trying to by violating the rights of many Americans and immigrants. I love Adams' photos, but there is an even more impressive story about Japanese American photographer Toyo Miyatake who made his own camera inside the concentration camp -- at a time when cameras were forbidden. You can see some of his amazing photos at
    www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2011/9/19/documenting-man…
    or an oral history with his son, Archie, who also is a photographer
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgG_aJ6rJEo

    PS Dorothy Lange also took some amazing photos of the forced relocation of Nikkei. See NYT
    https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/rarely-seen-photo…

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