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October 25, 2018
PHOTO EXHIBITION AT JAPANESE AMERICAN NATIONAL MUSEUM DEPICTS TRIUMPH OVER ADVERSITY
Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit, going on view at the Japanese American National Museum on November 17, 2018, presents large-format contemporary photos taken by Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Paul Kitagaki Jr. next to images shot 75 years ago by such noted photographers as Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, and others. Each pairing features the same individuals or their direct descendants as the subject matter and brings to light the stories of Japanese Americans who were forcibly incarcerated during World War II. Inspired by the Japanese concept of gambatte—to triumph over adversity—the exhibition chronicles the strength and legacy of a generation of Japanese Americans who persevered over unimaginable hardship. The exhibition will remain on view through April 28, 2019, and is included in regular museum admission.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which allowed for the designation of military areas “from which any or all persons may be excluded.” Just days later, two such areas were designated. The United States government then established the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to manage the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans, and during the WRA’s existence, it commissioned photographers—Dorothea Lange, Clem Albers, Tom Parker, Francis Stewart, and others—to document the treatment of these Americans during the process of forced removal, at assembly centers, and at America’s concentration camps.
In the late 1970s, Kitagaki learned that Lange had photographed his family in 1942 as they waited for a bus in Oakland, California, to take them to the Tanforan Assembly Center, a designated detention facility at the time. Since this discovery, Kitagaki has been on a mission to identify, seek out, and document other individuals captured in WRA-era photographs.
“As I examined Lange’s work, I realized that every photograph represented an untold story ...