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One of the stops on our eastern Sierra trip was the Manzanar National Historic Site. Manzanar was one of 10 war relocation centers that held Japanese during the second world war. Two-thirds of Manzanar's internees were American citizens by birth.
Photographers, including Dorthea Lange, Toyo Miyatake and Ansel Adams, played roles in telling the story of Manzanar.
Lange, a noted Depression era photographer, was hired by the War Relocation Administration to photograph Manzanar and the other relocation centers.
Miyatake was a Los Angeles portrait photographer who was interned, along with his family, at Manzanar. Although cameras were confiscated, he hid a lens, built a camera and photographed Manzanar from an internee's perspective. When camp officials found out, Miyatake's friend and fellow photographer, Edward Westin, intervened on his behalf. The camp director, Ralph Merritt, allowed Miyatake to continue. In over three years at the camp, Miyatake produced about 1500 images.
Adams was Manzanar's most well-known photographer and he was invited by his friend, Merritt, to photograph the camp. His work was published in the 1944 book: Born Free and Equal, Photographs of the Loyal Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Relocation Center, Inyo County, California. Adams' book proved to be controversial. Some critics called him an "apologist" for the internment by failing to document its darker side. Others found the book "disloyal" and there are reports of it being publicly burned. At the time, Adams wrote: "Through the pictures the reader will be introduced to perhaps twenty individuals . . . loyal American citizens who are anxious to get back into the stream of life and contribute to our victory."
An exhibition of Born Free and Equal was planned at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Controversy caused delays and changes to the exhibit. It's title was changed to "Manzanar" and Adams' text documenting service of Japanese Americans in the armed services was omitted. The revised exhibit was held in MoMA's basement.
Here are two shots from Manzanar. The first shows surviving barracks and Mount Williamson through the camps' barb wire fence. The second shows the fence and a guard tower. I wanted to render the guard tower out of focus because Adams was not allowed to photograph them at all.
Manzanar I Nikon D800 Nikkor 50mm 1.2 ais 1/60s f16 ISO 100
Manzanar II Nikon D800 Nikkor 50mm 1.2 ais 1/8000s f1.2 ISO 100