Friday, November 10, 2006
10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
369 E. First Street, in Little Tokyo
Scheduled to attend:
Archie Miyatake, former Manzanar inmate. Son of famed Japanese American photographer Toyo Miyatake, Archie Miyatake remembers his father’s interactions with Ansel Adams during his visits to Manzanar.
Bruce Kaji, former Manzanar inmate. Founding President, Japanese American National Museum.
RSVP to Janis Wong at (213) 830-5690 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org by November 8, 2006. Metered street parking and public parking lots are conveniently located near the Museum for a nominal fee.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (2006-10-06)
Chris Komai - email@example.com - 213-830-5648
Ansel Adams at Manzanar features the original work of one of America's most famous photographers, who, during World War II, documented life in an American concentration camp. This exhibition opens at the Japanese American National Museum on Saturday, November 11, 2006, and will run through February 18, 2007. Organized by the Honolulu Academy of Arts, Ansel Adams at Manzanar includes more than 50 vintage prints from the collections of the Library of Congress; Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona; Honolulu Academy of Arts; and the Japanese American National Museum.
When Adams learned that over 10,000 Japanese Americans were forced to live in a government-run concentration camp located in Inyo County, California, not far from Death Valley, he decided to document "the tragic momentum of the times" in 1943 and 1944. In total, over 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were unconstitutionally incarcerated by the U.S. government in a variety of prison camps in desolate areas located west of the Mississippi River during World War II. Because of Manzanar's location adjacent to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where Adams had spent years photographing, it was a logical site for him to document this experience. In the end, Adams observed that most of the Japanese American inmates "have responded, in one way or another, to the resonances of their environment" surrounded by the endless desert and snow-capped mountains.
"The Japanese American National Museum is honored to be the venue for this historically important and aesthetically significant exhibition featuring the work of one of the greatest photographers of all time, Ansel Adams," explained Irene Hirano, President and CEO of the National Museum. "We are grateful to the Honolulu Academy of Arts for organizing the exhibition and for allowing the National Museum to present the show in California, where Adams did much of his work. It allows our institution to share an important chapter of U.S. history through the vision of a great artist."
Adams gained permission to photograph inside Manzanar from the camp director, Ralph Merritt, whom he knew from the Sierra Club. However, Merritt restricted what Adams could shoot, prohibiting photographs of the barbed wire fence and the guard towers. Because of a mutual friendship with photographer Edward Weston, Adams also made a point of meeting and eventually becoming friends with Japanese American photographer Toyo Miyatake, who was imprisoned at Manzanar with his family. As an inmate, Miyatake was not supposed to have a camera, but he smuggled in a lens and film holder and had a camera body constructed, so he could document their camp experience secretly. Eventually, Merritt named Miyatake the official photographer of Manzanar, and in the 1960s, Miyatake's work was exhibited next to Adams' photography in the exhibition Two Views of Manzanar at UCLA.
Ansel Adams at Manzanar was curated by Dr. Anne Hammond, who understood the importance of this body of work after reading Adams' own correspondence on the subject. In reading his letters, "I came to fully appreciate the depth of his social commitment to the Japanese Americans" and that Adams "was intent on showing Japanese Americans as positive, hard-working, and well-acculturated Americans." Dr. Hammond noted that Adams hoped this would help them in their reintegration into American society after getting out of the camps.
Adams compiled many of his photographs of inmates and their lives in camp into a book, Born Free and Equal: Photographs of the Loyal Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Relocation Center, Inyo County, California, in 1944. It accompanied an exhibition, Manzanar, which was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 1968, Adams donated 242 negatives and 209 prints of his work at Manzanar to the Library of Congress. Of these photographs, Adams wrote, "All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use. The purpose of my work was to show these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and despair by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment."
In 1943 and 1944, Ansel Adams made four trips to Manzanar to photograph the inmates, their community life and the local landscapes. In his book Born Free and Equal, Adams wrote, "I have tried to record the influence of the tremendous landscape of Inyo on the life and spirit of thousands of people living by force of circumstance in the Relocation Center of Manzanar. Hence, while the people and their activities are my chief concern, there is much emphasis on the land throughout the book."
The exhibition, curated by Dr. Anne Hammond of Oxford, England, a noted Adams' scholar, contains over 50 original prints made by Adams himself. His original text from Born Free and Equal is used to describe the images in the exhibition. The prints include many individual portraits of the inmates as well as images of life in Manzanar. Both Adams and Merritt hoped that these depictions of Japanese Americans doing everyday life activities would aid in their reintegration and resettlement into American society. But, with anti-Japanese prejudice running high neither the book nor the exhibition found a very receptive audience.
At first, Adams had difficulty taking the kinds of photographs that showed regular life in Manzanar. Explained Archie Miyatake, Toyo's eldest son, "Adams wanted to get candid, natural photographs of people in the camp setting going about their daily routine - photographs that were not posed. He told my father that whenever he made an appointment to photograph someone, they would put on their best clothes and clean up their place before he arrived."
Eventually, Adams was able to capture young students walking to and from school; adults working in the fields or making dresses; dozens of individual portraits; families together in their barracks homes; and, the dramatic landscapes surrounding the camp. Adams was undoubtedly influenced by the social documentation photography by his friend Dorothea Lange, whose film he often printed for her. He hoped that his photographs of life in Manzanar would "suggest that the broad concepts of American citizenship, and of liberal, democratic life the world over, must be protected in the prosecution of the war, and sustained in the building of the peace to come."
The Los Angeles presentation of Ansel Adams at Manzanar is made possible, in part, by the generous support of The Aratani Foundation, Sumi Fukushima Hughes, Sidney & Minnie Kosasa, Mitsubishi International Corporation Foundation, Samuel T. Naito, Cindy Omiya, Michael and Karen Schneickert, William G. and Carol K. Ouchi, and Gordon Yamate and Deborah Shiba, D.D.S. Media sponsors: LA 18 KSCI-TV and The Rafu Shimpo.
Ansel Adams was born in San Francisco in 1902. Originally set to become a poet and a musician (he studied to be a concert pianist), Adams eventually found his calling in photography and became friends with fellow photographers Edward Weston and Paul Strand. In 1932, Adams and Weston founded "Group f/64", which promoted an unmanipulated form of photography. In 1933, Adams met renowned photographer and patron Alfred Stieglitz, the husband of Georgia O'Keefe. Stieglitz, who ran An American Place gallery, was extremely influential and he used his influence to promote Adams' work in an exhibition in 1936. Adams noted that "Stieglitz taught me what became my first commandant: 'Art is an affirmation of life.' "
To support his desire to photograph the Sierra Nevada and its environment, Adams worked as a commercial photographer, shooting everything from glassware to bathrobes for catalogs. This allowed him to spend time in Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier and Glacier National Parks, which set the stage for his most famous images. His lifelong commitment was to landscape photography, creating more than 30 books from his photographs of the national parks for the U.S. Department of the Interior. These include My Camera in Yosemite (1949), My Camera in the National Parks (1950) and Yosemite and the Range of Light (1979).
Adams took steps to see that his photographs were accessible to as many people as possible. He arranged that three of his most famous photographs - Moonrise, Winter Sunrise, and the vertical of Aspens - were printed and sold as posters at affordable prices. The wide popularity of the posters resulted in the production of Ansel Adams calendars in 1984, the year he passed away.
Dr. Anne Hammond
Anne Hammond was raised in Hawai'i. For ten years, she co-edited with her husband, Dr. Mike Weaver, the leading academic journal in English, History of Photography (1991-2000). She has published books on Frederick Evans (Clio Press, Oxford 1992), and on Ansel Adams (Yale University Press 2002). She is currently Research Fellow in Photography in the Centre for Fine Print Research at the University of the West of England, Bristol. She is curator of Ansel Adams at Manzanar, which opened September 7 at the Honolulu Academy of Arts and ran until October 29, 2006. She also is curating a major exhibition on Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams which will open at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in May 2008, before going on to museums in West Palm Beach, Washington D.C., and San Francisco.
See Exhibition-related public programs document.
JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM
The Japanese American National Museum is dedicated to fostering greater understanding and appreciation for America's ethnic and cultural diversity by preserving and telling the stories of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Since its incorporation in 1985, the National Museum has grown into an internationally recognized institution, presenting award-winning exhibitions, groundbreaking traveling exhibits, educational public programs, innovative video documentaries and cutting-edge curriculum guides. The National Museum raised close to $60 million to renovate an historic building in 1992 and open a state-of-the-art Pavilion in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo Historic District in 1999. There are now over 50,000 members and donors representing all 50 states and 16 different countries.
The Japanese American National Museum is located at 369 East First Street in the historic Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org. National Museum hours are Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission is $8.00 for adults, $5.00 for seniors; $4.00 for students and children; free for Museum members and children under age six. Admission is free to everyone on Thursdays from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and every third Thursday of the month from 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Metered street parking and public parking lots are conveniently located near the National Museum for a nominal fee.
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