February 6, 2003

I Mean, Just Look How Happy They Were!

Richard Kobayashi, farmer with cabbages, Manzanar internment camp, photo by Ansel Adams image: loc.gov

Richard Kobayashi, farmer and cabbages, Manzanar Internment Camp
photo by Ansel Adams image: loc.gov


In 1990, just out of school, I was transfixed by a copy of Ansel Adam's self-published book, Born Free And Equal, at a big antiques show. At $200, it was the most expensive book I'd ever wanted, and I choked. Almost five years of searching later, it was the first thing I bought online, from a collector on a photography newsgroup. [Of course, now you can almost always find a copy on Abebooks.] Adams' combined his photographs--signature landscapes, portraits and documentary shots--of the Japanese American internment camp in Manzanar, CA with his scathing text to condemn the US government's (all three branches) stripping of US citizens' and residents' civil rights.

Published in 1944, Adams' book was poorly received, no surprise. Many copies were reportedly burned, and today, it is an exceedingly rare, little known work by a very famous photographer. Since the 1960's, the Manzanar collection has been at the Library of Congress. Tell Jack Valenti when you want to see his neck twich: Adams put these pictures into the public domain, to ensure their survival. View all 244 images here.

Manzanar landscape with barbed wire fence, by Ansel Adams image: loc.gov

Manzanar landscape with barbed wire fence
photo by Ansel Adams, image: loc.gov


Why do I post this now? Well, I have contemplated ideas for a film based in the camps. And a John Ashcroft deputy has suggested such camps for Arab Americans would not be illegal. But now, a Congressman from North Carolina (home state, thanks), the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Domestic Security, has defended the camps, proclaiming them "appropriate" and "for their [the Japanese'] own safety." Two branches down, one to go.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

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first published: February 6, 2003.

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