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Ansel Adams at Manzanar
September 7 - October 29, 2006
In late October 1943, Ansel Adams arrived at Manzanar War Relocation Center, where nearly 10,000 Japanese Americans were interned during World War II under Executive Order 9066. His self-motivated photographic project was to show the loyal American faces of these internees, two-thirds of them citizens by birth whose constitutional rights had been violated by the internment. From October 1943 to July 1944, he made four visits to Manzanar at his own expense and without recompense, talking to the internees and photographing them in activities that especially emphasized their Americanness. The internment camps were scheduled to close at the end of 1944, while the war in the Pacific still raged, and Adams believed ordinary Americans would be more tolerant of the return of the internees to the cities and towns if they were perceived to be as American as anyone else. (right: Ansel Adams, United States, 1902-1984, Entrance to Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center, c. 1943, Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, DC., Lot 10479-2, no.1.)
His work was stimulated largely by his admiration for the work of Paul Strand, whose portraits of peasants in Photographs of Mexico (1940) were for Adams 'documents in the highest sense of the term'. It was Strand's sense of immediacy and direct visual contact with the subject that Adams aimed for in his own Manzanar portraits to convey the resourcefulness and quiet fortitude of the interned Japanese Americans. Another influence was the work of photographer Dorothea Lange, whose book with her husband Paul Taylor, American Exodus, about the dust-bowl migrations, was a landmark in documentary photography when it appeared in 1939, and who had photographed in Manzanar in 1942. When Adams visited Lange and Taylor in the late summer of 1943, they applauded his effort and offered their full support.
Adams's goal was to publish these images in an inexpensive book, Born Free and Equal, which he hoped might influence public opinion. But although it made the best sellers list in San Francisco, Born Free and Equal (1944) was poorly distributed after its publication in December, largely because of wartime race prejudice.
In 1968, Adams donated his Manzanar photographs to the Library of Congress, where they can now be seen online. Although often overlooked among his great American landscapes, the photographs he made at the internment camp in Manzanar represented for Adams one of the most important experiences of his photographic career. This is a rare opportunity to see original prints made by Ansel Adams from the Library of Congress; the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona; the Japanese American National Museum; and the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
This exhibition, organized by the Honolulu Academy of Arts, will travel to the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, 11 November 2006-18 February 2007.
(above: Ansel Adams, United States, 1902-1984, Farm, Farm Workers, Mount Williamson in Background, c.1943, Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs. Lot 10479-4, no. 5)
(above: Ansel Adams, United States, 1902-1984, Nurse Aiko Hamaguchi, 1943, Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs. Lot no. 10479-8, no. 13)
(above: Ansel Adams, United States, 1902-1984, Frank Hirosawa in Laboratory, c.1943, Gelatin silver print. Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs. Lot 10479-7, no. 5)
(above: Ansel Adams, United States, 1902-1984, Michael Yonemitsu, X-Ray Technician, and Harry Sumida in X-Ray Room, Manzanar Relocation Center, California, 1943. Gelatin silver print. 13 3/8 x 10 9/16 inches (33.9 x 26.8 cm). Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington, D.C., Lot 10479-5,no. 30)
(above: Ansel Adams, United States, 1902-1984, Fumiko
Hirata, c.1943, Gelatin silver print, 9 3/8 x 7 1/16 inches (23.8 x
17.9 cm). Library of Congress, Division of Prints and Photographs, Washington,
D.C., Lot 10479-6, no. 19)
Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy these additional articles and essays concerning Ansel Adams and American photography:
more articles on American photography:
this online video:
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art web site contains an interactive online exhibit in which Ansel Adams describes how he photographed "Moonrise" in a 1980 video clip from the exhibit Ansel Adams at 100.
and these videos:
Ansel Adams is a 100 minute 2002 American Experience PBS Home Video directed by Ric Burns and Narrated by David Ogden Stiers. From Warner Home Video. Ansel Adams's photographs have made him one of the most recognized and admired names in art. A staunch environmentalist, the pictures that Adams took reflected a larger world view the photographer held to strongly.
Ansel Adams, Photographer 60 minutes "This film captures the spirit and artistry of the man as he talks about his life and demonstrates the techniques that have made his work legendary. As Adams talks of the country he loves, viewers glimpse his photographs juxtaposed with the landscapes he photographed. In a conversation with artist Georgia O'Keeffe, Adams discusses his association with her husband, pioneer photographer Alfred Steiglitz." "Outlines the long and prolific career of American photographer Ansel Adams (1902-1984) as an artist, conservationist, and teacher. Follows him to the locations of his most famous photographs, including Yosemite."  By John Huszar. 1986 (available through Las Positas College Library)
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