CONTRABAND, THE CAMERA, THE PHOTOGRAPH,
AND THE FAMILY ALBUM.
THE CAMERA and THE PHOTOGRAPHER.
The camera was considered contraband for the internees
during the incarceration, since they were considered enemy aliens. Cameras
were mainly of two types: the amateur box camera, a "point and shoot"
type, and a more complex camera with f-stops and shutter speeds for the
more serious amateur. The photographer who owned the cameras or parts of
the cameras, which were considered contraband, were either serious amateurs
Photographers who were taking pictures of relocation camp
life were either:
from media organizations, like Life
Magazine and newspapers,
an official camp photographer who also worked for the
a WRA photographer who was not an internee and who worked
for the government, or
an "amateur", which included both the visitors
to the camps, and the internees who managed to get cameras into the camp
(which was difficult since it was considered contraband).
The content of photographs for mass distribution was restricted
to what mass media editors or the government wanted to show. Many internee
photographers documented their personal life as well. The photographs included
in this web site were taken by the internees, sometimes just after they
were recently released either on work release or as soldiers to fight in
There are times when snapshots and family album photographs
go beyond the common ritual. Ironically, Kodak with its "you take the
picture, we do the rest." mail order marketing strategy made it possible
for the uncommon event of incarceration of the Japanese American family
to be recorded. These photographers exist as the witness and they provide
us with this reconstruction of that history and that cultural phenomenon.
THE INTERNEE AS OFFICIAL
The official camp photographers were internees who were
amateur or professional photographers previous to being interned. Official
camp photographers became more common around 1943, about a year after the
camps were started. They functioned as school photographers, official government
photographers, and portrait photographers in the camps. Many camps only
had camp photographers.
MIYATAKE, born 1895, Japan; died 1979, Los
Angeles. Interned at Manzanar Relocation Camp.
Before the war, Miyatake had a commercial photo studio
in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. He had studied with Edward Westin and won
many photography awards. Miyatake realized that cameras were contraband
but was able to get his camera lens pass the guards and inspections. While
in Manzanar, he had the carpenter build a light tight box for his lens and
sent his negatives to photography friends on the outside to get developed.
Edward Weston was a friend whose photographs he helped sell to the Japanese
American community before the war. Westin's recommendation to the camp director
helped gain his confidence and he became the camp photographer. He was eventually
able to practice his craft more openly.
Information and photographs are from his son, Archie Miyatake.
FUKUYAMA, born 1905, Japan, died 1978, Los
Angeles. Interned at Gila River Relocation Camp.
Fukuyama was a serious amateur photographer before the
war and had won a Kodak award in photography in 1932. There is little information about his life as a photographer in the camps. How he got his cameras into
the camps, how he got his film developed and printed before he became camp
photographer is not known. He originally lived in Los Angeles and returned
to L.A. after the camps.
JAMES YONEMURA, Interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Camp.
Little is known about this camp photographer. Relatives
were not found for information.
Information and photograph (the wedding) are from Grace
and Ed Akiya.
THE INTERNEE / AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER.
Most internees documentated their lives just as most people
want some documentation of their existence, whether it be day to day life
or special family rituals. The pleasures of being photographed and to photograph
is universally common The desire to document our existence through the photograph
is as strong in our psyche as producing progeny. there is a need to create
this reality for posterity through snapshots and the family album. With
the camp regulations on contraband this idea of the family photograph had
became illegal at most camps. This repression of the camera and the family
photograph helped keep and maintain this family secret of internment life
and created a caste of shame and guilt on this passage.
Within all the ten relocation camps, cameras were considered
contraband and confiscated. Exceptions to the rule happened, and a few internees
managed to bring their cameras in with them. Heart Mountain Relocation Camp
seemed to be an exception, as there were several family albums being passed
around during the 1995 Heart Mountain conference and the Gila River relocation
camp reunion. In 1943, the illegality of taking snapshots at Heart Mountain
was relaxed and camp officials allowed cameras and photographs. This seemed
to be unique to one or two of the camps out of the ten camps. As the end
of war seemed evident, the security involving both movie cameras and still
cameras became more and more relaxed. The government became more focused
on the transformation of the internee to fit into normal American live and
to live within the free American community.
GRACE AKIYA, born 1917, Lankershiem, California, resettled in Cleveland, Ohio,
1945. Interned in Heart Mountain Relocation Camp.
Mrs. Akiya purchased her Kodak box camera for $4.98 in
Los Angeles before the war. When she packed for evacuation it was in the
bottom of her duffel bag and she had forgotten about it. As she went through
inspection at Assembly Center the guard either did not see the camera or
let it pass through. She had forgotten she had it in the bag but was thankful
later she did unconsciously bring it. She had a friend in L.A. who would
send her film and who would have her prints processed and printed.
She photographed her sisters, brothers, family members,
and friends and babies. She and her husband, Ed Akiya, were married in camp
and the camp photographer, James Yonemura took a makeshift wedding photograph
She shares her family album with her children and grandchildren
Mrs. Grace Akiya is a fourth degree blackbelt in judo,
and teaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Mideast Judo Academy. She is
80 years old.
UTAKO MORIOKA, born 1915, Japan, U.S. citizen
1956, resettled in Honolulu, Hawaii. Interned in Heart Mountain Relocation
Mrs. Morioka immigrated to San Francisco, California, when
she was four years old. She was living in Hollywood, California, and working
as an extra for MGM studios when she was evacuated. She was a classical
singer and ballet dancer. Her parents were deceased. She brought in with
her a momento from her father, a folding Kodak camera, which she was able
to pass through the guards and inspections at Santa Anita Assembly Center
and at Heart Mountain. Restrictions became more lenient. She was notable
to get film or processing until she got to the Heart Mountain Relocation
Camp. Montgomery Wards sent catalogues to the internees and she was able
order film and processing through mail order.
The photographs she took were of other mothers and their
children, friends, and extended family such as soldiers going off to fight
in Europe, people who were part of the Hawaiian band her husband played
for in the camps. She was the hula dancer in the band. Both she and her
husband had no immediate family in the camps.
She shares her family album with her daughters and grandchildren
Her daughter, Lani Sanjek, introduced me to her family
album of camp photographs at the 1995 Heart Mountain Conference and reunion.
EVA HASHIGUICHI, born 1925, Clarksburg, California, and resettled in Cleveland,
Ohio. Interned in Heart Mountain Relocation Camp.
Mrs. Hashiguichi accidentally brought in her the Kodak
box camera she received as a gift on her sixteenth birthday. It was confiscated
at the Fresno Assembly Center by the guards during inspection. Her brothers
were sent out to Jerome Relocation Center to do construction work on that
camp and were able to retrieve the numerous contraband items taken from
them, like knitting needles, scissors, and her camera. At the Jerome Relocation
Camp, she was able to get film and get processing at the canteen. She also
used the camp photographer's service of processing and prints.
The photographs she took reflected her interests in team
sports as she took numerous group snapshots of various sports teams organized
in the camps.
Mrs. Eva Hashiguichi is active with tennis and bridge and
spends most of her free time with her grandchildren. She is 72 years old.
TOKUYE SATO, born unknown, resettled in Los Angeles. Interned in Topaz Relocation
Tokuye Sato was released to work as a carpenter from Topaz
Relocation Camp in 1943. He had a friend buy a Contax 35mm camera for him
and he would bring it in when he visited his mother in the camp. When he
was assigned to the construction crew of the Topaz camp hospital he would
develop his film at the hospital's x-ray darkroom. His camera was confiscated
once when entering the camp and he was held by the FBI for a brief time.
His camera was returned to him when it was discovered he was only photographing
friends and family. Visitors were allowed to bring cameras in, but for the
internees it was considered contraband at Topaz.
The curious thing about this photographer was his patience.
He saved his film, until he took a photography course at South West College
in L.A.in 1987, ten years ago. He waited 40 years to see what the prints
Sato's snapshots represent a range of interests but one
of the more recurring reflects his interest at the time and most of the
images are of teenage girls in various postures of giggling.
Ms. Jane Beckwith of Delta, Utah, introduced me to Sato's
photographs when I was photographing Topaz Relocation Camp in 1995.
VISITORS WITH CAMERAS.
Minidoka Relocation Camp.
This photograph of Shim Yamamoto's mother, Shigeyo Yamamoto,
was taken on the doorstep of the barracks by a visitor to the camps who
had a camera. Shim's sister, Mary Nakanishi, said it was a soldier visiting
his parents who took this snapshot and she does not remember who it was.
Visitors were allowed to bring cameras in but for the internees
still in the camps it was considered contraband at Minidoka.
Shim Yamamoto resettled in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1943, on
a work release program. His mother and sister joined him in Cleveland in
1945. Shim Yamamoto moved to Seattle in 1995 and writes articles for the
Cleveland JACL newsletter.
Amache Relocation Camp (Granada).
was interned at Granada Relocation Camp in Colorado. She married Tayeko
Nomura in camp and they resettled nearby Las Cantinas in Colorado as farmers.
She showed me these camp snapshoots that she kept in a
shoebox with other small keepsakes of that time. Mrs. Tayeko Nomura does
not remember who took the photos nor many of the internees in the photos.
Mr. Emery Nomura was in the hospital at time of the interview and visit.
The Granada high school history teacher, John Hooper, referred
me to Mr. and Mrs. Nomura. He has a Granada high school class on the history
of the Amache Internment camp where the students study the archeology/history
of the site and the stories of the internees (met during reunions). They
will have a website soon.
JAPANESE CANADIAN INCARCERATION
The Canadian government also incarcerated their citizens
with Japanese ancestry during WWII. They were incarcerated in wider range
of camps, "self supporting camps", labor camps, "road
camp projects", and "prisoners-of-war" camps. 21,460 Canadians
of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated and not allowed to return to the
west coast until 1949. Some were forced to relocate to a Japan they never
knew (repatriates) and others were forced to relocate inland and eastern
The need to record and document the family and their riturals
was evident in these times of dislocation and transition. These photos were
kept in family albums. The following are family album pages from the Japanese
Canadian story, photographs taken by the Japanese Canadians interned with
born in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Interned at Lemon Creek Internment Camp
in the Slocan Valley, resettled to Hamilton,
Ontario, Canada, where she went to high school. She now lives on Victoria
Island, B.C., Canada. Mrs. Ayakawa has completed a doctorate in history
(1997) and has a doctorate in chemistry and writes articles for "The
Bulletin" in Vancouver.
Mrs. Midge Ayakawa borrowed a friend's box camera to photograph
her family in Lemon Creek Internment Camp before they left. Some of these
other photographs were bought from the camp photographer to remember the
experiences and memories. One of her girlfriends' father was an amatuer
photographer in camp and recorded a number of activities of the growing
children's camp life.
Irene Tsuyuki, born in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Interned at Tashme
Internment Camp, British Colubia, Canada. Resettled in Richmond, near Vancouver.
At the end of the internment in 1946, Ms. Tsuyuki's adopted parents were
repatriated to Japan. The Tsuyuki family sponsored her return to Canada
where she married her husband, Norman Tsuyuki, the son, and raised her family
on a Richmond farm in B.C. Her parents died in Japan as she was processing
their re-entry back to Vancouver. Because of the separation by repatriation
she never saw her parents again.
The family album photographs are by her husband, Norman
Tsuyuki, who is an avid photographer and was interned on a farm with his
family in Lillooet, a "self-supporting camp." There were less
restrictions in the self-supporting camps but they were still isolated in
the interior mountains of British Columbia.