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Friday, 03 February 2017


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Shared with my half-sister of 1/4 Japanese ancestry. An uncle was sent to a high security camp in Yuma because he was an employee of the Japanese Consulate.

That is a fine print sale, and a moving read.

"The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”
— General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command...

Thanks. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend whose parents were sent to a "relocation" camp. Among the things were talked about was the recent order by U.S. District Judge Gee ordering the government to bring a deported Iranian man back from Dubai. http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-lax-detained-iran-20170129-story.html

Kinda makes one think of patriotic U.S. citizens who happen to be Muslim ... but no, history couldn't be repeating itself.

(Random Excellence) May I suggest Louis Faurer.

Send a humanist to photograph humans and you are probably going to end up with something that will create sympathy.

Thank you for this timely post.

Many Dorthea Lange negatives already belong to you and me: they were WPA sponsored and are the property of the Library of Congress. You can order prints from the original negatives for a nominal fee. I have a lovely print of "Migrant Mother," which I ordered several years ago. It is a bit of history, I enjoy owning. The Library of Congress has many images (including images of Manzinar by Ansel Adams) online here:


The Farm Security Administration Pictures, including Lange's are here:


Also worth mentioning are Ansel Adams's photographs of the Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar
Which I sometimes think is his greatest work.

Ansel Adams's book Born Free and Equal, a selection of Ansel Adams's photographs of the Manzanar internment camp which was published in 1944 by U.S. Camera
is viewable online.

There must be an awfully interesting story behind how Adams was able to publish but Lang could not. The difference in the text is worth noting.

Thank you, Mike.

The price I pay for not staying on top of TOP (see what I did there?) is that it looks like all the prints I would purchase are sold out. It's a wonderful essay and I love the photos.

"Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston is a very readable first-hand account of what it was like to be interned. No photographs, though. Originally published in 1973, it appears to be still in print, as various editions are available at Amazon.

May I also recommend, in light of the often quoted, while being ignored, George Santayana the book "Born Free and Equal" by Ansel Adams? This collects his own photos of and outrage at the concentration camps that we Americans ran during WWII. It's an especially interesting work for those who think of AA as only a landscape photographer.

At the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/manz/book.html

And as a PDF: http://lcweb2.loc.gov/service/gdc/scd0001/2002/20020123001bf/20020123001bf.pdf

Those "War Relocation Authority centers" were concentration camps; and employing a euphemism is a tiny step toward repeating that dreadful act. Thanks for pointing out that the phot caption isn't yours.

Does anyone have information about another source from whom the now sold out prints could be purchased?

I noticed Mr. Marks links and I, too, have ordered prints from there but it looks like these photos are not included.

I tried searching the National Archives by the location number and the title and came up with nothing.

As a few people mentioned, all of Dorothea Lange's FSA photographs are downloadable from the Library of Congress site, and many of them with high-quality scans. So are Ansel Adams's Manzanar photographs, and a scanned copy of Born Free and Equal, his book about the relocation camp at Manzanar (with his own, excellent text).

I've put together a book of 500 Lange photographs, by far the largest collection available in a single book. Also, a book of Adams's Manzanar photographs, and a re-creation of Born Free and Equal, with higher-quality photographs than the ones in the original book.

Links are here: http://basepath.com/new/books.php

I clicked through.

That is a gorgeous online photo essay, especially on my 27" desktop LCD monitor.

People assure me that digital monochrome images are now fully the equal of any from the old film days, but those 75 year old images have light values to die for, and that I can never get from my digital files, no matter how much I photoshop.

I'm assuming Dorothea Lange's large format camera was loaded with Super XX or some such.

Top that, Leica Monochrom!

Hi Mike

A word to Kenneth. I believe the special Japanese-American battalion was confined to the European theater, which was a terrible waste of talent and knowledge. I have read about it in two works of fiction. Hawaii, by James Michener, which I read nearly 50 years ago when it was new and I was new in the New Guinea Islands -- there were lots of parallels. I just finished reading the other book this week, Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson, a sort of whodunit which tries to convey the racism of the period. Unfortunately the author gets confused when he tries to deal with deeper emotions but his descriptions of life look authentic.

The racism was huge, of course. You will have noticed that German ancestry did not forbid German-Americans from being recruited into the army and fighting against Germans in Europe, nor did Americans of German descent end up in concentration camps. A few did in Australia -- even Jews who had fled Germany in mortal fear!

The same thing happened in Canada and Australia, by the way (although there were very few Japanese-Australians; most pearl shell divers). The Japanese-Canadians lost all their property and one lady I met told me she had finally been offered compensation for that in, I think, the '90s. She told the Canadian government to give it to the Native Canadians -- they had suffered and were suffering, more.

Many thanks to the poster who gave the link for Born Free And Equal, by Ansel Adams. I note in scanning through it, that he mentions one of the Japanese-American servicemen as being wounded in the Pacific. Apparently they were not confined to the European theater as I had understood.

Cheers, Geoff

I should have mentioned Dorothea Lange. She features in the book, The Family of Man, which was one of my primers in photography.

Wonderful work.

Cheers, Geoff

People may be interested in taking in the excellent PBS documentary on Lange - Grab a Hunk of Lightning - which covers this subject at length. It's available on DVD from the usual sources.

War-time censoring of photographs of the relocation and camps by Lange and others can be debated today, but it wasn't debated much at the time. With what we know now they exist as evidence of the injustice of it all.
What of the censorsing today?
Only a few striking images of the daily Syrian horrors and Mediterreanian drownings slip through the media maze, and not enough to shape majority American public opinion regarding refugees. Publication of the crime scene photos of the Sandy Hook classroom massacre (among many others) would certainly shape the gun debate, but they're nowhere to been seen, even with a wide-open internet ungoverned by editorial policies.
Who are the censors, what are they censoring and why are they doing it?
Or is it just that some things "we" don't want to see?

Thank you for the book link. I passed it on to a friend with family (including mother, father and older brother)that were interned at the Heart Mountain, WY camp. An uncle of his served in the famous 442nd "Go for Broke" Regiment that save the Texas "T-Patchers" when they were surrounded by German troops.

I found an image I really like that was still available and ordered it. Thank you, Mike. I am on the road to having prints in my home, both my own and those of others.

Last year I bought three books with Dorothea Lange's work, including 'Impounded.' Also 'New Deal Photography,' that contains a lot of her images too. Some books are printed decently, but I haven't found the ultimate book yet. I think her work deserves the best reproduction that is possible. In a large format, printed in Japan.

@Geoffrey Heard: Helmut Newton was one of those German Jews interned in Australia. His adolescent / early adulthood experiences were extremely varied - at one point leaving Germany in fear for his life, then jumping ship in Singapore where he became a photographer's assistant/gigolo, then getting the last boat out of Singapore for Australia (or so the story goes) where he was interned, before joining the Australian army and becoming an Australian citizen! There's a chatty "autobiography" with lots of stories - a great read.

JAYoung asks, "Who are the censors, what are they censoring and why are they doing it?
Or is it just that some things "we" don't want to see?"

When the Abu Ghraib torture story broke, and for many months afterwards, an image search using those words on Google produced only endless repetitions of the same forty or so images that had been circulating among media outlets. The same search on Yahoo produced hundreds of images not seen before or since, many of them quite graphic and seemingly incriminating.

When a reporter finally confronted Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, about this discrepancy between the two company's results, Schmidt replied only, "Well, I guess we need to update our databases", or words to that effect. To my knowledge, though, this update never occurred. In fact, the rarely seen images disappeared from Yahoo results.

It seems to me this single example goes quite a way towards answering the questions asked by JAYoung.

I have a good friend who was born in Japan to a Japanese father and Japanese-American mother. His mother had been born to Japanese immigrants in California. When she was ten years old, in 1942, and having never been outside California, her parents were offered a choice: go back to Japan or be moved into a camp. They chose to return to Japan and took their daughter with them, settling among their extended family in Hiroshima.

Three years later, when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it so happened my friend's mother-to-be, was with her own mother on a family visit out of town. Were it not for this accident of timing, it's quite possible my friend would not have been born. In any event, my friend later went on to a twenty year career as an officer in the U.S. army reserve, and is a green card holder. His mother died in Hiroshima a few years ago, in her late eighties, having never again seen the country she was born in.

Last year the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles had an exhibition of Ansel Adams's photos from Manzanar. Also included were some of Dorothea Lange's photographs, along with photographs made by Toyo Miyatake, an accomplished photographer who was imprisoned in the camp.

He, along with all Japanese Americans were not allowed to have cameras. Miyatake smuggled a lens and a 4x5 holder into Manzanar and fashioned a camera using, in part, a threaded pipe that was used to focus the image on the groundglass. At first he made his photos under cover. Later, the rules were interpreted to allow him to set the camera up and frame his photos, so long as one of the guards released the shutter. Eventually, Miyatake was allowed to make photos entirely on his own. There was a nice video with his grandson (I think), who is also a photographer, explaining how his camera worked.

For more information: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/01/news/la-trb-toyo-miyatake-manzanar-20120720



Here is more information regarding Miyatake:


One of the German Jewish refugees interned in Australia was Helmut Neustädter from Berlin. After some time in the camp it was determined that he was not a subversive, and he enlisted in the Australian army. When the war ended, due to his military service, he was able to gain Australian citizenship. He then anglicized his last name, becoming Helmut Newton.

Those who are interested in the history of Japanese internment and the background noise of American racism may be interested in David Neiwert's book Strawberry Days, which covers the destructive effects of the WW2 internment on the Japanese-American community of Bellevue, WA.


As an art student in the early 1970's, I discovered that the university library had complete bound sets of both Fortune and Life magazines. I was lucky enough to be able to study all of the Walker Evans photo essays done while he was staff photographer at Fortune - most of those photos had never been published anywhere else at that time. And the opportunity to see how Life evolved over the years was instructive, though in a manner I had not imagined.

Henry Luce bought Life magazine in 1936 and immediately reformatted it into the photo essay giant TOP readers know and love. As the second world war drew closer, Life increased their coverage of both Germany and Japan. The Germans had developed a formidable industrial and technological sector, perhaps to be feared but surely to be admired, according to Life. The Japanese, on the other hand, always seemed to be presented in a very dismissive manner, and with a not-at-all-subtle racist subtext. As the decade progressed the racist tone became more and more obvious.

Thinking that I was perhaps reading too much into stories that were primarily visual and short on text, I began reading the other Luce publication for the period that the library also had available, Time magazine.
Same racist slant and just as blatant.

After the Pearl Harbor attack Americans, particularly on the west coast, were understandably fearful and angry. But the poisonous bigotry was, at least in part, the fault of Henry Luce.

Regarding my comment about my friend and his Japanese-American mom: I'm aware that the U.S. and Japan were at war in 1942, so I'm not sure I have - or that my friend had - all the details exactly right. Maybe the U.S. arranged special transport for Japanese immigrants wishing to return to Japan in 1942, or maybe the parents of my friend's mom were made to feel unwelcome and left right before the war broke out. In any case the general thrust of the story is correct: a ten-year-old American girl was forced to leave her country and never felt welcome to return.

Aha! Not Super-XX!

One of the contact prints (in the long moving panel-the picture of the elderly lady in black against a wall, beside a door with a young man) has an edge inscription. It says "Agfa Safety Film."

Who would have thought that Dorothea Lange would be using stocks of film made in Germany in the midst of WWII?

Thank you for this installment of "Random Excellence."

... such an eerie reminder of nationalism gone awry.

I have to second the sentiment of Bob Rosinksy. And I'll have to poke at an earlier comment, unsure of the intent of the original poster of it: "Send a humanist to photography humans, and you are probably going to end up with something that creates sympathy."

Dorothea Lange didn't need to have the eye of a humanist to create a sympathetic response to the mistreatment of Japanese Americans during WWII. I'm unsure of how you could have photographed the humans in the internment camps and come away with anything other than a sympathetic viewpoint. The most rigid of documentary aesthetic would have seen the same thing; American citizens ripped from their homes, placed into truly horrid living conditions, and cast as an enemy they never were simply because of their race. To put it another way, any photographer placed in that environment would have emerged as a humanist.

These pictures are devastating, the quoted text even more so. That's all I have to say.

It's not widely known that the internment camps for people of Japanese descent were not only established in the US, but in other North American countries such as Canada.

But something even less well-known, at least it was to me, is that similar to the Civil War in the US, there were Japanese families split with some family members fighting for the US (often drafted or volunteering while in internment camps) and others in the Japanese military. Some Japanese Americans who had returned to Japan ended up being drafted into the Japanese military---and one did not decline an invitation from the Japanese military to serve. It is even possible that Japanese-Americans who served in military intelligence provided information which was used in actions which killed members of their own families.

I first learned of this years ago through a Flickr contact, "Mustang" Koji who had family members in internment camps, and whose father volunteered for the US Army, and whose US citizen uncle who had moved to Japan with his mother before the war, was drafted into the Japanese Army, later dying in combat.

His interesting blog about his families WW2 experiences and also his photography is here: https://p47koji.com/2012/05/15/masako-and-spam/

As mentioned, no need to buy prints of these photos from anyone. Download the Hi-Rez tiffs yourself and print them directly. Or order prints off the direct negatives which are certainly better than anything offered commercially.

A gallery in Port Washington, WI sponsors a monthly film screening and the film last month was The Cats of Mirikitani. It's an absolutely wonderful film about a Japanese-American man who was in one of the camps. It's incredibly touching and I cannot recommend it enough.


Not a photobook per se, but certainly a book with photos, I think "Sento at Sixth and Main" by Dubrow and Graves takes a poignant (or a stronger adjective that may be censored, but would be appropriate given our times) look at the decimation of the American-Japanese communities in California and Washington State in the 1940s and beyond. Strongly recommended. And I did manage to purchase an Anchor Editions print of the photo shown at the head of this blog post. My print arrived two weeks ago (numbered 83/100), and it's very nice. Regarding the other recent TOP post, large format b/w had most certainly reached sufficiency (at least in the hands of Ms. Lange) by then.

I did two posts about one of my wife's relative's experiences in the camps and what happened to her after the war on my blog...



I've visited Manzanar National Historic Site now twice, as part of Eastern Sierra Field Workshops, led by Alain and Natalie Briot of Beautiful-Landscape.com

There is a white monument there, created by the residents. Do a Google Image search of Manzanar, and you will see it. The double ranges of sharp jagged mountains on either side of the valley points out the futility of ever trying to escape the camp.

It's all rather sobering. The experience must have been absolutely devastating to these families, yet they resolutely found ways to carry on and try to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

Paul Kitakagi, an American of Japanese descent has located over 50 of the people depicted in those old Dorothea Lange and other internment camp photos (including Kitakagi's own family) and rephotographed them, 70 years later.


Sorry for the belated contribution.

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