Museum Picks

Frank Kikuchi’s pick: Born Free and Equal

It has been almost 60 years since Born Free and Equal by Ansel Adams was first published. Because of the hostile postwar environment at that time, the book was not accepted by the public and did not generate much attention. Now, we have been given a second chance to acquire this classic collection of photos which has been given a new lease on life by The Spotted Dog Press and is currently available through our Museum Store.

In a departure from the exquisite outdoor photos of Yosemite for which he is justly famous, Ansel Adams demonstrates his skill as a portrait photographer. For this book, Adams focuses on “faces.” The faces of internees captured in these portraits tell a powerful story, mirroring the whole gamut of human emotions. Many of these classic photographs have become familiar as they have been used in later publications. There is also an abundance of interesting text, written by Adams himself, accompanying the photos.

Archie Miyatake’s introduction to this book is a bonus, with poignant vignettes of his father, Toyo Miyatake, and other members of the family. He tells of their association with Ansel Adams and Ben Weston, another photo icon of their earlier days. Additionally, Sue Kunitomi Embree contributes interesting information about the history of the book and tells of purchasing two of the original copies of the classic.

Born Free and Equal is a worthwhile purchase to those of us who lived through the hectic times of World War II. You will find long-forgotten names, faces, and memories arising from the mists of time. After all, isn’t this what books of this type are supposed to do?

Frank Kikuchi is currently a docent at the Japanese American National Museum. He was a resident of Block 20 in Manzanar where he was a neighbor to both the Miyatake and Kunitomi families.

April 2002

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