Sunday, April 12, 2009

"Act of defiance preserved Japanese-American story"

(Image borrowed from Julian Ayers.)

When legendary Japanese-American photographer Toyo Miyatake was sent to a California internment camp with his wife and children during World War II, he smuggled a collection of camera parts in with him.

It was a small act of defiance that would leave a big legacy.

Inside, he built a makeshift camera with another imprisoned Japanese-American by connecting the lens to a drainpipe. Using film secretly delivered by Americans outside the camp, he took hundreds of photographs documenting the experiences of Japanese-Americans relocated to the internment camp following Japan's Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor.

As the number of surviving former internees dwindles, the photos have become a crucial historical record of a dark chapter in U.S. history.

So as not to forget the conditions they endured, a documentary film about Miyatake will be released and an exhibition of his photos held in Japan this year, the 30th anniversary of his death in 1979.


The documentary film will be shown in the hall of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography from April 11. The photo exhibition will open April 16.

Read the whole story at

For more information about the film, including a trailer, and examples of Miyatake's work, see the website below.

Link to Toyo's Camera (in English and Japanese):

Special thanks to Myra in the VAOJ Honolulu office for the heads up on this subject.

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