Ansel Adams at Manzanar 1943

In wandering through the wonderful archives online of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division I came across some intriguing and beautiful shots created by Ansel Adams. Not surprising to see beautiful Adams photographs, you say? No, but these are different than the scenery images with which we are so familiar. In 1943 Adams decided to travel to the internment camp in Manzanar, California to document the conditions there. In his words, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment… All in all, I think this Manzanar Collection is an important historical document, and I trust it can be put to good use.” 

Manzanar Relocation Camp, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, was one of ten internment camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese citizens were incarcerated during World War II. When I consider the conditions these people were forced to endure I find it extraordinary that so many of the portraits Adams captured are of smiling people. The following are three photographs I thought you might enjoy. I encourage you to explore this archive for yourself!

Tatsuo Miyake (student of divinity) photograph by Ansel Adams

Tatsuo Miyake (student of divinity)
photograph by Ansel Adams

Title: Tatsuo Miyake (student of divinity) / photograph by Ansel Adams.

Creator(s): Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984, photographer

Date Created/Published: [1943], Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver.

Summary: Tatsuo Miyake, half-length portrait, standing, facing slightly right, in front of a sign for church services in English and Japanese.

Dressmaking class, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams

Dressmaking class, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams

Title: Dressmaking class, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams.

Creator(s): Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984, photographer

Date Created/Published: [1943] Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver.

Summary: Mrs. Ryie Yoshizawa, instructor, standing in front of class of women students, one woman in foreground with dressmaker’s dummy.

Girl and volley ball, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams

Girl and volley ball, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams

Title: Girl and volley ball, Manzanar Relocation Center, California / photograph by Ansel Adams.

Creator(s): Adams, Ansel, 1902-1984, photographer

Date Created/Published: [1943] Medium: 1 photographic print : gelatin silver.

Summary: Young girl, half-length portrait, standing, facing slightly left, holding a volley ball with both hands.

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