Biographies from the exhibition catalog by Dennis Reed.
Furukawa worked in relative isolation in Honolulu, Hawai‘i, where there was no Japanese camera club. He had but one close friend who was an avid photographer, Jiroki Noguchi. Furukawa was born March 5, 1890, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, and was schooled in Hiroshima. He came to Hawai‘i when he was about 15 years of age and promptly began working for the Nippon Jiji, a bilingual newspaper in Honolulu that was later known as the Hawai‘i Times. He began as a photoengraver and worked at the firm for 60 years until his retirement as vice president in 1966, two years before his death from a stroke in December of 1968. He made at least one return trip to Japan around 1930.
His primary camera was a Graflex, but he sometimes brought home cameras on loan from the newspaper such as the small format Leica. He labored for hours making bromoil prints, a process that he favored. His family recalled his receiving an invitation to become a member of the Royal Photographic Society of England, but he declined because the initiation fee was too costly.
Furukawa was a butler by trade. For the purposes of mailing his prints, he used the address of 15 Arguello Blvd., San Francisco, which was likely his employer’s home and where he lived. He may have been Kalorsatimo Fukuhara, who was born in Japan about 1889, entered the United States in 1906, and was a butler in San Francisco; but currently the two names cannot yet be linked with certainty. Furukawa was a member of The Japanese Camera Club of San Francisco (JCCSF), becoming the group’s treasurer in 1937 and 1938. He exhibited until WWII.
Furuya was born March 11, 1882. He was listed in period publications as Tomishisa, Tomihusa, or more frequently as T. Furuya. He won third prize in the Rafu Shimpo’s first Artgram exhibition of 1924, and he was a founding member of the Japanese Camera Pictorialists of California (JCPC). He was employed as a laundry worker in 1918 at the Favorite-Laundry at 2632 West Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, and, later, at the Meiji Laundry at 244 West Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena.
He used the Meiji Laundry address for shipping his art prints to and from exhibitions, and the address was written on the verso of the print included in this exhibition. The print was included in the Camera Enthusiast’s exhibition in San Diego the year of his death, July 30, 1929. He was cremated at the Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights, where many Japanese Americans were interred, but his ashes were sent instead to Soto Mission in Hawai‘i. (The 1938 JCPC annual exhibition contained a section for non-members, and included work by another T. Furuya, who also won second prize in the 1940 exhibition.)
Born in Oakland, California, on December 14, 1908, Hayashida was the only Nisei member of the JCPC, and the last living member of the club. Being younger than the others, he joined later, exhibiting in all of the club’s annual exhibitions beginning in at least 1934.* Like most of the club members, he exhibited widely, including the London Salon (1936), The International Photographic Salon of Japan (1936), and the Pittsburgh Salon (1938), as well as the Los Angeles Camera Pictorialist’s salons (1936, 1937, 1940, and 1941).
He married in 1937 and had two sons. He was a gardener by trade. During WWII, he and his family avoided incarceration by moving inland to Utah where he operated a produce stand and performed odd jobs. His photographs, hidden in an unknown location, survived the war years. After the war he continued gardening, working primarily for the Chapman Park Hotel until it closed in the late 1960s, and then as the personal gardener for the owner of Gelson’s Markets. He died November 29, 2005, in Los Angeles.
*There are no extand club records for 1932 or 1933. [Hirokazu Kosaka contributed to this biography.]
Itani was born March 26, 1903, in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. He arrived in San Francisco aboard the ship Korea in 1918 at the age of 15 to join his parents. He went by the name of Eddie.
Itani first exhibited as a member of the JCPC in 1928, and he continued as a member for nearly ten years while exhibiting in many salons including those in London and Paris. Itani took classes at the Art Center School and worked at a variety of jobs, primarily as a shoe salesman, before opening a portrait studio in 1937 at 208 West 6th Street in San Pedro, California. Eye problems forced him to close the studio, at which time he opened a café.
Itani made two trips to Japan to visit his ancestral home. He married and had a boy in 1926, but his wife died in childbirth (she was just 17 years old). He married again, in part so that the child would have a mother, but the boy died four days after his first birthday. During the war, Itani and his second wife were sent to Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. After the war, he worked primarily as a gardener, and he became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1954. His second wife died of cancer in 1955, and he married again in 1956, adopting his new wife’s daughter. Itani was a heavy smoker his entire life and died in Los Angeles of emphysema on October 16, 1986.
Itano was born September 4, 1879. He was a watchmaker by trade, and he appears to have worked in Sacramento, California, from around 1908 to at least 1913. His wife, Tombara, immigrated to the United States in 1916, and they settled in Los Angeles where, after working for another jeweler, he opened a watch shop at 357 East First Street in Little Tokyo. It was an early meeting place for the JCPC, of which he was a charter member.
His work was included in the Rafu Shimpo exhibitions of 1924 and 1926, and he was widely exhibited outside of Little Tokyo. His prints were shown in the Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Los Angeles international salons, as well as a number of the Japanese international exhibitions. Among the many publications to feature his work were two of the five issues of Pictorial Photography in America, volumes 4 (1926) and 5 (1929), one of the most prestigious publications for art photographers of the time.
Little has come to light about Izumi. He was born in Japan and began to exhibit his photographs by 1931. He became a member of the JCPC in 1935, continuing with the group until WWII. He produced two of the signature pieces created by a Los Angeles Japanese American, The Shadow and Tunnel of Night. He is believed to have died in Los Angeles shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor [no official birth or death records have been located.] He had no children.
Born on January 14, 1900, in Kauai, Hawai‘i, Izuo came to the continental United States when he was 18 years old. He worked creating photographs for Sunday night operas performed at the Club Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, which is currently the Hotel Casa Del Mar. He took Frank as his given name, married Chiyeko Chiba, a nurse, and had two children. He operated the S. Izuo–Toyo Studios at 233 1/2 East First Street, the former site of the Toyo Miyatake Studio, likely during the time that Miyatake briefly returned to Japan. Later, he established his own studio at 333 East First Street. He was a founding member of the JCPC but resigned in 1936. He nevertheless continued to support the group with advertisements for his studio in the annual club salon catalogs, and he was invited to exhibit with the club in 1940.
He was first incarcerated at Poston War Relocation Center before being allowed to leave and farm in Wyoming. Izuo’s photographs and equipment were stored in the family home at 3306 East Third Street in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, not far from Little Tokyo. After the war, he opened a studio in Denver, Colorado, with T.K. Shindo as his assistant. When Izuo became ill with cancer, Shindo bought the studio. Izuo died in Denver on January 1, 1946, at the age of 45.
[Noreen Fong, Izuo’s granddaughter, contributed to this biography.]
Kamikihara was born in Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan, on March 28, 1904. After coming to the United States, he adopted the name Jack. Before WWII, he attended the New York Institute of Photography, and he photographed the city’s famous buildings. In California, he operated a studio inside the Union Laundry at 2310 Filbert Street, Oakland, and he may have, for reasons unknown, exhibited as Kiyoshi or Jack Tanaka.
He married and had two children, a boy and a girl. His 1942 Alien Registration Card indicates that the family’s residence was located at 2021 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, the same address as the Motoyoshi Studio, which he apparently operated. When WWII began, he and his family were incarcerated at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming. In 1944, he was allowed to work at the Murray Photographic Studio in Omaha, Nebraska, after which he and his family returned to San Francisco where he opened the Kami Studio in his home at 1849 Laguna Street. He also worked in the middle to late 1950s aboard various ships as a cook or clerk. At some point during his life, he worked for the railroads and received a pension upon retirement. In 1954, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Kamikihara died March 26, 1988.
[Robert Hori contributed to this biography.]
Born in Japan on September 22, 1887, Kato arrived in the United States in 1906, at the age of 19. With his domestic partner, Kamejiro Sawa (1889–1956), he owned The Korin, a business that took several forms: a Kodak store at 248 East First Street, a film processing plant at 107 North Main Street, and a main shop and gallery at 408 West Sixth Street (later at 522 S. Hill Street). In addition to processing and printing photographs, The Korin sold stationery, ceramics, photographs, frames, and paintings.
Kato was one of the area’s early art photographers, photographing landscapes, still life, and portraits, including those of actors Sessue Hayakawa, William S. Hart, and Douglas Fairbanks, as well as Christel Gang (one of Edward Weston’s lovers and models). Kato was a painter and writer, as well, and he was a member of the Shaku-do-sha, the group of artists, writers, poets, and photographers who sponsored exhibitions of Edward Weston’s photographs in 1925, 1927, and 1931, though the shows were held after Kato’s sudden death the morning of January 4, 1924, at the age of 36. Toyo Miyatake, who was also a member of the Shaku-do-sha, was a friend, and he attended Kato’s funeral. Sawa prepared a tribute to Kato in the form of an album entitled The Records of an Unbroken Friendship by the Mortal Severance, 1907–1924, which he lovingly filled with small prints by Kato and pictures of their life together. It is housed at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Little is known about Katsu’s personal life, except that he worked in unit 706 of the Brack-Shops Building, which was an early indoor shopping mall at 527 West 7th Street in Los Angeles. He may have been a barber. Though he never joined the JCPC, Katsu had considerable success during his brief photographic career. His work was reproduced in Pictorial Photography in America, volume 4, 1926; Photograms of the Year, 1926; and the American Annual of Photography, 1928; to name a few. His print Water, which appeared in the 1926 issue of Photograms of the Year, was the first reproduction of a “complete” abstraction by a Japanese American.
Kimura was born August 10, 1902, in Japan. He immigrated in 1916 at the age of 14 to California through Hawai‘i, which was a common route, following his father and two older brothers. He joined his brothers as a laborer in the grape fields around Fresno before coming to Los Angeles, where the family founded a dry goods store, Kimura Bros., at 337 East First Street. He briefly returned to Japan in the early 1920s to marry, and he later traveled a second time to Japan, returning to Los Angeles in 1931.
Kimura was a charter member of the JCPC, and remained a member until the club disbanded at the outset of WWII. He was the only individual to be with the club during its entire existence. Kimura, like most Japanese American art photographers, used a Graflex camera—in his case a 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 with a rotating back and a Goerz Dogmar f4.5 lens. His works were widely exhibited and published, and he became a member of the Royal Photographic Society in 1936.
During WWII, he was incarcerated at Manzanar War Relocation Center where he worked with Toyo Miyatake. After the war, he was employed in Miyatake’s studio. In 1955, Kimura and his family purchased a camera store, the former Tanaka Photomart, which became the Kimura Photomart. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States the prior year, in 1954. He died of cancer on March 21, 1975.
Born in Hawai‘i on April 5, 1889, Kira spent his youth in Japan where he was schooled until he was 16, when his family moved to Canada. There he attended two years of high school before moving to Seattle. He married in 1921 and had two children, a boy and a girl. He took up photography in 1919 but, dissatisfied with his initial results, he pursued other activities until he attended an exhibition in 1922 that reawakened his interest.
Kira’s early efforts were accepted by several salons, including the prestigious Pittsburgh salon, which encouraged him further. He worked at a variety of jobs, selling shoes and sewing machines, before being employed in the photography lab at the Main Drug Store in Seattle, where he met other photographers and became a founding member of the Seattle Camera Club (SCC). His work graced the cover of the SCC bulletin, Notan, twice in 1925, and he was frequently mentioned in later issues.
Looking for greater employment opportunities, Kira moved to Los Angeles in June of 1926, where he found employment at the T. Iwata Art Store on East First Street. Although he never joined the JCPC, he attended some meetings and associated with several members including T.K. Shindo and K. Asaishi, and non-member Asahachi Kono. Kira attended the 1927 and 1931 Shaku-do-sha exhibitions of Edward Weston’s work in Little Tokyo. Though he had already begun doing still life since coming to Los Angeles, after seeing Weston’s work in the Shaku-do-sha exhibitions, Kira’s photography took a modernist turn, as demonstrated by his series of paper birds and glassware. He became an associate of the Royal Photographic Society on December 11, 1928, and he was named a fellow on December 10, 1929.
During WWII, he was incarcerated at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona. After the war, he worked primarily as a photographic retoucher for Disney, RKO Radio Pictures, and Columbia. Kira died in Los Angeles on July 19, 1991, at age 93.
Dr. Koike was born in Shimane Prefecture, Japan, on February 11, 1878, and he attended medical school before immigrating to the United States aboard the Awa Maru, arriving in Seattle on December 16, 1916. He established his medical practice in the Empire Hotel building at 422 1/2 Main Street. Though he spoke little English when he arrived, he translated 30 volumes of Japanese fiction and non-fiction into English between 1919 and 1924.
Dr. Koike began to exhibit photographs in 1922, and in 1924 he helped found the Seattle Camera Club. He was the group’s primary spokesman, both as the main contributor to the club’s newsletter, Notan, and in articles for other periodicals. On at least eight occasions, his work was reproduced on the cover of Notan, more than any other member.
He was an avid naturalist who journeyed to Mount Rainier on more than 100 occasions, taking his camera with him. He used a simple Kodak A3 roll film camera and produced straightforward bromide prints, almost exclusively of landscapes, that were among the most widely exhibited and published American photographs made during the late 1920s and early 1930s. In 1929, Notan announced that he was named an associate of the Royal Photographic Society. According to the American Annual of Photography, for a five-year period ending in 1931, he was the third most exhibited photographer in the world, as he was again in 1932.
During WWII, he was incarcerated at Minidoka War Relocation Center, Idaho. Following the war, he returned to Seattle, but his health began to decline. Dr. Koike died March 31, 1947, and his ashes were scattered at the foot of his beloved Mount Rainier.
[David F. Martin contributed to this biography.]
Kojimoto was born March 12, 1883, in Japan and immigrated to the United States in 1907. He was a member of JCCSF, and for a time he was employed as a professional photographer. He used the club’s mailing address of 1639 Post Street for shipping his art prints. He lived and worked, likely as caretaker, at 398 West Portal Avenue, San Francisco. Kojimoto was married and had one son, Hideo, who was born in 1918 in San Francisco and was sent to Japan for schooling. The elder Kojimoto traveled to Japan to escort his son back to the United States, arriving with him in San Francisco aboard the Chichibu Maru in June of 1937.
Kojimoto exhibited in the 1926 Rafu Shimpo exhibition, and one of his prints was reproduced in the catalog. He continued to show his work through 1941. He and his family were incarcerated first at the Tanforan Assembly Center at the San Bruno horseracing track, after which they were then taken to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. He died in Kobe, Japan, in June of 1968.
Kono, whose original family name was Kawano, was born December 29, 1876, in the small town of Omi, on the island of Kyushu, Japan. He came to the United States in 1896. He married, but his first wife died. He remarried, and adopted his second wife’s son. Kono worked at the T. Iwata Art Store on East First Street, and was close friends with K. Asaishi and Hiromu Kira, who also worked at Iwata’s, and with T.K. Shindo.
Though Kono likely knew all of the area photographers, he did not become a member of the JCPC. Kono was rarely without his camera, however, and he particularly loved camping, including trips to the High Sierra of California during which he photographed. He was one of the most widely exhibited photographers working in Little Tokyo. His photographs were shown at such prestigious venues as the London Salon of Photography and Royal Photographic Society of England.
He returned to Omi, Japan, around 1936, where he became an influential photography teacher. Kono died June 14, 1943, at the family home in which he was born (from an illness unrelated to the war). After his death, his negatives and most of his prints were sealed in a trunk by his stepson and marked “Do Not Open.” They remained sealed until 1983, when they were discovered and donated to the local Shiranui Museum of Art, with some items going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.
[Kaori Hashimoto contributed to this biography.]
Asakichi Kunishige, born June 5, 1878, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, arrived in San Francisco aboard the ship Coptic on October 25, 1896. He attended the Illinois College of Photography before moving to Seattle, where he was employed briefly in the studio of Edward S. Curtis, and then in the studio of Ella McBride. He married his wife, Gin, on October 23, 1916.
He was a founding member of the SCC in 1924. Noted for his technical skill, he and fellow member Yukio Morinaga printed most of the images taken by other club members, and he even developed and sold his own photographic paper, Textura Tissue. He adopted the name Frank and exhibited internationaly as F.A. Kunishige.
During the 1930s, he and his wife lived at 1712 Jackson Street. Following the outbreak of WWII, they were sent to the Puyallup Assembly Center before being transferred to the Gooding Division of the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho. When released from camp, they remained in Idaho before returning to Seattle, after which Kunishige’s health deteriorated, and his wife worked as a maid. Following his death on April 9, 1960, Gin married their close friend and fellow SCC member, Iwao Matsushita, who preserved Kunishige’s work and donated it to the Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington Libraries.
[David F. Martin contributed to this biography.]
Matsuki was born April 3, 1879, in Kochi Prefecture, Japan. It is unclear when he first arrived in the United States, though he may have come as early as 1907 as a farm laborer. He visited Japan twice, first in 1917, and for a second time, returning March 13, 1924, after which his wife Yoshiye, followed three months later (likely subsequent to their marriage in Japan).
By 1917, he worked as a clerk in the Main Drug Store at 514 Main Street, owned by Yasukichi Chiba, which was where Hiromu Kira and Yukio Morinaga also worked. Unlike the other three, who were founding members of the SCC, Matsuki joined later, in 1928. He did not exhibit widely, like some members, but his work was seen in salons in Canada, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Los Angeles in 1929.
He favored small cameras and specialized in both landscapes and city scenes, one of which appeared on the cover of Notan (June 14, 1929), and, a year later, in the New York Times (December 28, 1930). At the club’s next to final meeting, September 13, 1929, with eight members attending, he and Dr. Koike were the only members to bring new prints. Matsuki continued working at the Main Drug Store until at least 1934, sometime after which he and his wife may have returned to Japan.
Having been born August 26, 1875, Mayeda, like Kono, was older than most of the area photographers. Mayeda arrived in San Francisco aboard the America Maru in 1904, taking the English name of Harry, though as a photographer he used T. Mayeda, Toraji Mayeda, or Torazi Mayeda.
He worked as a janitor, and had some connection to the Kashu Mainichi Japanese language newspaper, likely as an employee. He was highly respected for his photographic skills by area photographers, though he was regarded as somewhat conservative in his approach by such modernists as Asaishi and Kira. Even so, he produced at least two modernist works, including a water and oil abstraction.
Mayeda became a charter member of the JCPC but dropped out after the first year. He continued as an active photographer in Little Tokyo until his death from tuberculosis in Los Angeles at age 59 on January 31, 1935.
[Natsuko Sone contributed to this biography.]
Miyatake was born October 28, 1895. His father came to the United States in 1906, and Miyatake followed three years later. Rather than continue in his father’s confectionery business, he decided to become a photographer, taking a four-month course in 1918 from H.K. Shigeta (who remained a lifelong friend).
In 1923, Miyatake purchased from Kaoru Akashi the Paris Photo Studio located in the Hotel Toyo at 233 1/2 East First Street, which was well situated in the heart of Little Tokyo. Miyatake’s given name was spelled Toyoo, but he dropped the extra “o,” likely to align his name with that of the hotel that housed his new Toyo Studio.
Miyatake was a member of the Shaku-do-sha, and was responsible for organizing exhibitions of the work of Edward Weston in 1925, 1927, and 1931. While Miyatake was not a member of the JCPC, he met with the club on occasion and exhibited with them. He photographed dancer Michio Ito when Ito settled in Los Angeles in 1929, becoming his official photographer.
When Miyatake and his family were sent to the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, he smuggled a lens and film holder into camp. With the assistance of a carpenter internee, he built a camera with which he began to record camp life. Eventually, a sympathetic camp director, encouraged by Edward Weston, allowed him to send for his stored equipment. Increasingly, Miyatake was granted greater freedom to photograph, which resulted in some of the finest images taken of the war incarceration.
After the war, he opened a new studio at 364 East First Street, and later moved to 318 East First Street, both within Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo. He photographed many celebrities both before and after the war, and he documented the community and its activities, from weddings to official events, for which he received several civic honors near the end of his life. He died February 22, 1979. The Toyo Miyatake Studio continues to operate in San Gabriel, California.
[Alan Miyatake contributed to this biography.]
Born January 11, 1888, in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, Morinaga came to Seattle in 1907. Close friends called him Mori. He was employed in 1917 by the Bering Sea Packing Co., in 1918 as a clerk in the Oriental Trading Co., and by 1922 he was working in the photographic department at the Main Drug Store, where the SCC was formed.
Because of his technical skill, he produced, along with Kunishige, many of the finished prints that club members submitted to the salons. He was a longtime resident of the Japanese owned Panama Hotel at 506 1/2 Main Street, a workingman’s lodging in the heart of Seattle’s Nihonmachi (Japantown). Beginning in the mid-1920s, he used a homemade enlarger and advertised himself as a photo finisher. Fellow SCC member Virna Haffer, who became a close friend, sent him work from her Tacoma studio.
During the war, like Kunishige, he was incarcerated at the Puyallup Assembly Center before being transferred to the Gooding Division of the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho. After the war, he worked for Haffer, who bought him a small house in Tacoma. He was so embittered by the incarceration experience that he refused to pay taxes, and, finally, in desperation, he starved himself to death on June 12, 1968. He never married and had no children.
[David F. Martin contributed to this biography.]
Riichi Gyokuto Morita was born in Kyoto, Japan, on November 25, 1891. He came to the United States around 1907, working in Tacoma as a mangle operator before becoming a washer at the Eagle Steam Laundry a year later, and the Union Steam Laundry by 1919. He went to Japan and returned with his wife, Shuko, in February of 1921, after which he worked as a tailor before establishing his own firm, New Fashion Tailors, at 521 Main Street in Seattle.
He was a member of the SCC and most active between 1925 and 1929. Though not one of the original charter members, he joined within the first year. The February 11, 1927 issue of Notan lists him as the sixth most exhibited member of the club for the prior year.
During the war, like Kunishige and Morinaga, Morita and his family were sent to the Puyallup Assembly Center before being transferred to the Gooding Division of the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho. After the war, he moved to Los Angeles, living at 1749 West 43rd Place, and becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 7, 1958. He died in Santa Clara, California, on November 21, 1975.
Mukai was born into a farming family on February 28, 1899, in Okayama, Japan. He arrived in San Francisco aboard the Korea in 1914 at age of 15, after which he enrolled and completed four years at Polytechnic High School. He excelled at math and began studying mechanical engineering at a local college where he was one of five top students sent to interview for a prospective job at a major utility company. Mukai was the only non-white student sent, and he was the only student not hired. Disheartened, he quit school and worked primarily as an automobile salesman and as a gardener.
He was a charter member of the JCPC, and was adept at the difficult bromoil printing process. While a club member, he lived or worked at 700 East First Street in Little Tokyo. Mukai married in 1931 and had three daughters. He became inactive with the JCPC in 1930, and he discontinued exhibiting because of the difficulties of the Depression and the increasing obligations of family life.
During the war, he stored his photographs in the detached garage of his home (actually owned by his brother but held in the name of his Nisei wife), taking only one photograph with him to camp: Dusty Trail by Kaye Shimojima. He and his family were first sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center before being transferred to the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas. During the war, the family’s house was occupied and cared for by a Mexican American family. Before Mukai and his family returned home from camp, a lumberyard owned by a Japanese American family was intentionally set afire, engulfing an adjacent home and Mukai’s garage. The fire destroyed all known examples of his work except two prints that he previously had traded with another photographer and JCPC member, Ryoji Kako. Mukai died of cancer on November 17, 1979.
[Maye Muraoka contributed to this biography.]
Most of Nakagawa’s personal life remains a mystery. His given name was transliterated as either Susumu or Satsuma. He lived or worked at 206 1/2 South San Pedro, in Little Tokyo. Nakagawa, who was a close friend of Ichiro Itani, joined the JCPC in 1927, and continued until 1939, when he may have returned to Japan. From 1925 to 1937, he exhibited widely in the United States and abroad, becoming an associate of the Royal Photographic Society in 1931 and a fellow in 1934.
In 1914, at the age of 20, Nakamura left the port at Yokohama, Japan, by ship and traveled through Honolulu, Hawai‘i, to San Francisco, on his way to join his father and mother in Los Angeles. He lived with his father, Toratora, and mother, Tame, and younger sibling Sei, who was born in California. In 1920, Nakamaura worked at a Japanese soup factory, probably owned by his family, and in 1930 he described his occupation as “food products.”* He married and had two children, Henry and Ruth, taking over his father’s residence at 306 North Avenue 22, Los Angeles, about four miles north of Little Tokyo.
Nakamura was a charter member of the JCPC and stayed with the club through 1935. He made at least one visit to Japan, returning to the United States in March of 1933. He likely is the Kentaro Nakamura who died March 15, 1938, and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, though he may have returned to Japan.
Nohira usually exhibited as T. Nohira, though his name appeared variously as Tajuro Nohira, Tajiuro Nohira, Nohira Tajuro, or Taura T. Nohira. He was born in Chiba, Japan, on January 4, 1888. He came to the United States in 1908, working as a laundry worker before operating his own clothes cleaning business at 1415 Ellis Street in San Francisco from at least 1927 until the beginning of WWII.
He was a member of the JCCSF, and he was the group’s treasurer in 1933 and 1934. Nohira exhibited during the early 1930s, mainly in the United States. He made two return trips to Japan, in 1935 and 1939. At the start of WWII, he was incarcerated at the Topaz War Relocation Center, initially called the Abraham Relocation Center, in Utah, and then to Tule Lake War Relocation Center, California, in 1943. His wife, Sui, born the same year as he, predeceased him in 1948. Nohira died in December of 1964.
Onishi was born December 15, 1890, in Japan. At around 17 years of age, he came to the United States through Canada. He was a cook and, by 1930, a restaurant manager. He was a charter member of the SCC, and he was particularly active. Notan, in February 11, 1927, lists Onishi as the club’s top exhibitor for 1926, and his photograph End of Day was the second most exhibited print by a SCC member. By comparison to the club’s principal founder, Dr. Koike, who exhibited 61 prints nationally and internationally, Onishi showed 122 prints nationally and internationally during the same period.
A year earlier, in 1926, the November and December issues of Notan reported on a one-person show of Onishi’s work held that October at Seattle’s Japanese Commercial Club. The showing was attended by over 1,000 people, and Onishi sold 250 prints totaling $1,191, and astounding total at the time. He returned to Japan in 1934.
[David F. Martin contributed the majority of this biography.]
Ota was born in Japan on May 5, 1877. He was first employed in the United States as a gardener at a private home in Pasadena. In 1921, he left that job to open a photography studio at 570 South Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. He travelled to Japan, perhaps more than once, returning from one trip in September of 1928.
As an art photographer, one of his earliest exhibitions was the 1924 Rafu Shimpo competition, for which two of his works were reproduced in Artgram (listed as Ohta). He went on to exhibit across the United States, Europe, and Japan, usually signing his prints K. Ota. He operated his Pasadena studio and continued to exhibit until his death on October 7, 1934, at the age of 57.
Born Tadanao Sata on June 5, 1896, in Kagoshima, Japan, he arrived in San Francisco aboard the Tenyo Maru in 1918. He had 13 years of education in Japan, which was considerably more than most of his fellow photographers. He worked first as a household servant before starting a green grocery business that failed early in the Depression, after which he worked at the T. Iwata Art Store.
Sata had serious ambitions as an artist, including drawing, painting, and photography, the latter of which he began earnestly in 1921. He used a Graflex camera with a 3 x 4 inch film holder and a sharp focus Zeiss Tessar f4.5 lens. He adopted the given name James and signed his prints J.T. Sata. He married in 1931 and had one child, a boy. Sata was injured in an automobile accident in 1932 that left him with a limp. He was a charter member of the JCPC but became inactive following the accident. He resumed exhibiting in 1936, and continued until the club disbanded at the onset of WWII. His work was seen in many exhibitions worldwide, including the London Salon, and he was one of 50 photographers selected for an exhibition shown in Belgium by the Association Belge de Photographie in 1931 to represent the finest in international photography.
During the war, he and his family were incarcerated at the assembly center at Santa Anita Race Track before being sent to the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas. In 1944, they were transferred to the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona where he headed the Art Club. He created a number of accomplished drawings and paintings of the incarceration experience at both Jerome and Gila River, and he may have photographed at Gila River. Family belongings, including his camera and photographs, were stored with a Caucasian family who were sympathetic to the plight of the Japanese Americans. Following the war, Sata was employed as a maintenance worker at the Westridge School for girls in Pasadena. He died August 14, 1975.
Among the Japanese Americans working in San Francisco, Sato’s photographs were the most extensively exhibited and reproduced nationally and internationally. He took the given name Frank and typically signed his prints F.Y. Sato. His studio was located at 1627 Geary Street, and he was a member of the JCCSF, for which he was treasurer in 1933 and 1934. He apparently had an association with members of the Los Angeles group, the JCPC, as he photographed with them on at least one occasion.
His activity as an exhibitor peaked in the years 1932–1933, when he showed 88 prints in 25 exhibitions, falling off slightly in 1933–1934, when he showed 56 prints in 18 exhibitions. In 1932, he joined the Royal Photographic Society of England (RPS). The February 1934 issue of Camera Craft magazine identified him as an associate of the RPS, when he wrote an article entitled “How It Was Done,” in which he described, with diagrams, his method of setting up his decorative designs and shadow effects.
His activity diminished around 1935, when he may have returned to Japan, as another photographer, K. Wakasa, began using his former studio address in 1936 (they may have been partners previously).
Kinji Shigeta was born July 5, 1887, in the city of Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. He arrived in Seattle in 1902 with the intention of meeting an uncle whom he was unable to locate. He adopted the name Harry and began to learn English. He tried various occupations, including hotel clerk and clothing salesman, before moving to St. Paul in 1903 to study art. He also began doing photographic retouching. He returned briefly to Seattle before relocating to Los Angeles around 1910, finding employment as a studio retoucher.
In 1916, he married a fellow retoucher, after which he opened his own studio and school in 1918 at the Tomoe Hotel, 206 South San Pedro Street, in Little Tokyo (where Toyo Miyatake became his student). Shigeta closed the studio and school to work in Hollywood for Filmland magazine before moving to Chicago in 1924, where he was employed at the Moffet Studio. He joined the Fort Dearborn-Chicago Camera Club where he met his future business partner, George Wright. In 1930, they founded Shigeta-Wright, which became one of the most successful advertising studios in the country.
Throughout his long career, he made art photographs, sometimes informed with a sense of magic, which was his avocation. He often incorporated his artistry into commercial assignments using modernist techniques like photograms, montages, and solarizations.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he was forced to sell his share of the business, which became known as Wright & McKinney. During the war he was allotted a special dispensation that allowed him to use a camera, and he continued to work at the firm as an employee. He regained his share in the business after the war, later retiring to Los Angeles, where he died of a heart attack on April 21, 1963.
[Christian Peterson contributed to this biography.]
Born in Hiroshima, Japan, on March 26, 1911, Shimoda traveled at age nine aboard the Africa Maru, from Yokohama, Japan, to Seattle, Washington, arriving on September 27, 1919, where he was met by his father. Shimoda adopted the name Arthur and attended Pasadena High School in California. As a senior in 1928, his name appeared in the annual with the statement, “He was pleased by the artistic.”
He attended Pasadena Junior College (now Pasadena City College) before writing to photographer William Mortensen, whose studio was in Laguna Beach, California, offering to work for free in order to improve his skills. He spent eight months as Mortensen’s assistant before opening a commercial studio in Pasadena in 1936, focusing on college yearbooks and Pasadena society. In 1939, his studio address was 171 E. California Street, Pasadena. He also produced art photographs, and he exhibited with the JCPC in 1935 and 1940.
At the onset of WWII, he was sponsored by a Mormon family and moved to Utah to avoid incarceration, though he was arrested twice because he was Japanese. He married in 1945 and had three children, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1955. He established a commercial studio in New York on 47th Street near 5th Avenue, and later at 80 West 40th Street, specialized in food photography. He died in North Carolina from complications related to Alzheimer’s disease on September 13, 1996.
Shimojima’s given name was Katsunobu, though he used the name Kaye Shimojima as a photographer, both in the United States and Japan. Born on February 8, 1888, in the village of Nakagawa in the Nagano Prefecture, Shimojima immigrated to the United States in 1907. He was employed in San Francisco around 1910 on a daily basis as a house cleaner before moving to Sacramento. There he was employed by photographer Clarence Aldrich before photographing under his own name, catering to the Japaense American population. He produced art photography in Sacramento before coming to Los Angeles.
He moved to Los Angeles around 1923, where he was included in the first Rafu Shimpo exhibition a year later. He was the key figure in founding the JCPC and was regarded as the master teacher. He returned to Japan in either 1929 or 1930, where he joined the Japanese Photographic Society (Nihon Shashinkai) and continued to make art photographs. He wrote at least six books on photography while living in Japan, the first dealing with the creation of art photographs. He lived and worked in the Tokyo area, where most of his photographs appear to have been lost in the extensive bombing of Tokyo during WWII.
[Kaori Hashimoto contributed to this biography.]
Shimotsusa worked and lived in San Diego where his address was 427 East Street. According to the American Annual of Photography, he exhibited 27 prints in 14 salons in 1926–27 and 15 prints in five salons in 1927–28, before tapering off to just one print in one salon in 1928–29. His work was reproduced in Photograms of the Year in 1927 and 1928, and in the Salon International D’art Photographique de Paris in 1931, among others. By 1930, he returned to Japan and lived in Tokyo.
Koryu Shindo was born November 24, 1890, in the city of Kobuchisawa, Japan, the only son of a teacher who also served as the town mayor. He immigrated to the United States, encouraged to do so by his father, who wished him to avoid Japanese military service. Shindo entered the United States through Seattle, settled in Los Angeles, and took the name Thomas. He worked as a presser and cutter in a tailor shop, and in the grocery business until he became, by 1918, the advertising director for the Rafu Shimpo, the Japanese language newspaper.
At Shindo’s urging, the newspaper sponsored photographic competitions and exhibitions that became the catalyst in developing the photographic community in Little Tokyo. Shindo joined the JCPC in 1928, and likely designed the logo of the JCPC, just as he had earlier designed the masthead for the Rafu Shimpo. Shindo developed film and printed his photographs mainly in his home bathroom, signing his prints T.K. Shindo. He was a prolific exhibitor, and his work was published in seven issues of the English annual Photograms of the Year, more than any other Japanese American.
During WWII, he and his family were incarcerated in the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona. Following his release, he worked for Shigemi Izuo in Denver, Colorado, taking over the studio when Izuo became ill. In 1954, Shindo returned to Los Angeles to open a studio on First Street in Boyle Heights, not far from Hollenbeck Park. He ran the studio until he retired in the mid-1960s, dying in Los Angeles on October 26, 1974.
*Dates of his immigration vary from 1906 to 1911. Family lore maintains that he arrived when he was 17; Shindo indicated his birth as October 24, 1885, on his WWI registration card, which he may have misrepresented to place himself beyond the eligible draft age of 30 years. His son believes his correct birthdate was November 24, 1890, and it is that date that the family celebrates as his birth.
Sunami, born in Okayama, Japan, on February 18, 1885, came to the Seattle area in 1097, working as a cook in Tacoma in 1918, before being employed as a photographic assistant in the studio of Ella McBride. He began to exhibit art photographs by 1920, winning awards at Seattle’s Frederick & Nelson salons. Being a painter, also, he joined the Seattle Art Club.
He moved to New York City in 1922 to study art, enrolling at the Art Students League. He photographed his artist friends and the dancers who performed in the area, and this became his specialty. He worked for photographer Nicholas Murray, and he photographed artwork for various art galleries and museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art, his employer for 38 years.
Even after moving to New York, he exhibited photographs in Seattle on several occasions during the 1920s, and he was a non-resident member of the SCC. One of his dance photographs was published on the cover of Notan (October 14, 1927). Because he lived on the East Coast, he was not incarcerated during the war, though he did destroy some of his nude studies in fear of government reprisals.
In 1945, he married a woman from Washington state who was living in New York, and they had two children. Sunami became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1957. He died in New York City on November 12, 1971.
[David F. Martin contributed the majority of this biography.]
Born in Berkeley, California, on February 7, 1904, Takahashi graduated from the School of Optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1926. Dr. Takahashi was civic minded and active in the Nisei community during his entire life, co-founding the San Francisco Japanese American Citizens League in 1928. During WWII he and his family were sent to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah. After the war, he organized the Berkeley Camera Club. The Photographic Society of America elected him a fellow in 1965 in recognition of his 45 years as an amateur photographer. Dr. Takahashi died in Berkeley on June 19, 1978. Some 500 mourners attended his memorial service.
Currently there is little reliable information about Takahashi. He may have worked in Los Angeles before moving to the San Francisco Bay area. He was a member of the JCCSF and exhibited at the San Francisco Salon in 1927, the year that Takahashi’s photographs were reproduced in Camera Craft magazine in the months of January, February, March, April, June, July, and August. He won awards each of those months except January. In the November issue of the same year, the magazine’s editor praised the JCCSF and noted that photographer Arthur Kales had taught him, the editor, the essentials of bromoil printing, and that “K. Takahashi…completed the education.”*
*Sigismund Blumann, “Club Notes,” Camera Craft, vol. XXXIV, no. 11 (November 1927), 554.
Tanaka’s given name was Ianahak, though for the purposes of photography he usually was known as either I.K. Tanaka or K. Tanaka. “K” may have stood for Keiji. He joined the JCPC in 1927 and stayed through 1934, exhibiting in each club salon during those years. Beyond the club showings, exhibitions of his work were limited, peaking between 1929 and 1930, when he showed 23 prints in ten salons. Other than his address at 414 North Alameda, little is known about him. He is not the same Tanaka who had a portrait studio on East First Street in Little Tokyo. I.K. Tanaka may have returned to Japan before WWII.
Uyeda was born in Hiroshima, Japan, where his family grew rice. He was just 15 years old when he came to the United States in 1917 aboard the Shinyo Maru bound for San Francisco. He was a farmer all of his life, first working in California’s central valley as a truck farmer with his older brothers before moving south to Santa Monica and then to Norwalk in 1921. He and his brothers moved to Lancaster, about 70 miles north of Los Angeles, in 1926, where each bought his own alfalfa farm. Uyeda worked his acreage in Lancaster both before and after the war. His first wife died of illness and their child was sent to Japan. A second marriage produced three children who were raised in the United States.
He began photographing in 1919, but he never joined the JCPC, probably because of the sunup to sunset demands of farming, and the fact that he lived too far to participate in club activities. Nevertheless, he frequented the T. Iwata Art Store and was close to a number of Los Angeles photographers including Izuo, Kono, Mayeda, Miyatake, and Shimojima. Lacking the use of club facilities, he used his bedroom closet as a darkroom, which his wife once stumbled into by mistake, ruining a valuable negative. He usually had his enlargements made at the T. Iwata Art Store. Uyeda used a Korona View field camera with a sharp focus Tessar lens for his early art photographs.
He made return trips to Japan, likely three in total, in 1924 (leaving in December and returning April 3, 1925), 1932, and 1938. A number of his art photographs were taken in Japan. He was incarcerated at Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona, during which time his photographs were stored above a false ceiling that he built in his Lancaster home. The space was ransacked, but many of his photographs survived, as did his camera, which later was sold at auction along with most of his prints. He retired to Westminster, California, before dying on his birthday, January 1, 1980.
[Tom Jacobson and Loren Blackwood contributed to this biography.]