Tanaka Photo Studio: Family, Tradition, Business, and Community Before World War II is an online exhibition that highlights the work of Issei photographer Chikashi Tanaka (1888–1977). Tanaka Photo Studio operated in the heart of Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo from the time he first came to the city in 1912 until he and his family were incarcerated at the Gila River concentration camp in 1942.
His photographs capture the personal moments of daily life: weddings, funerals, traditions, businesses, and holidays such as Hinamatsuri (Girl’s Day) and Tango no Sekku (Boy’s Day). His work is a window into how Japanese Americans continued traditions from Japan while embracing the lifestyle of their new home, blending two rich cultures into a vibrant and unique community.
This online exhibition provides an overview of Tanaka’s expansive collection featuring fifty exemplary photographs which reflect many aspects of life during the prewar era. Click on the tabs to learn about Tanaka’s life, zoom in on the details of a select number of incredible photographs, and explore the full collection online.
We also hope to connect with you through this exhibition! If you recognize anyone in these photographs, please fill out the form and share your story. We look forward to hearing from you.
Tanaka Photo Studio: Family, Tradition, Business, and Community Before World War II was made possible by the Tanaka Family who generously donated this incredible collection to the Japanese American National Museum.