Discriminating Views: Documentary Photography and Japanese American Internment

Item # 150114.

By James C. Curtis.

This new work focuses on photographers hired by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and shows how their images were shaped by the government’s need to explain and justify the evacuation, confinement and eventual resettlement of over 110,000 Japanese Americans, two thirds of whom were American citizens. Discriminating Views analyzes the work of Dorothea Lange, Clem Albers, Francis Stewart, Tom Clark, Hikaru Iwasaki and other WRA photographers. The Manzanar photographs of Ansel Adams come in for special consideration. It is the author's contention that WRA photographs were instruments of propaganda that often reflected the prevailing racial attitudes of the era.

Discrimination drove the resulting narratives. WRA photographers ceased to refer to their subjects as Japanese Americans. They were now uniformly known as “persons of Japanese ancestry.” In effect, these photographs and their captions effectively stripped Nisei of their citizenship and thereby cast doubt upon their loyalty. Once proud individuals, Japanese Americans were consigned to an undifferentiated mass.

Paper: 235 pp.

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