Toyo Miyatake was a professional photographer who lived and worked in Los Angeles. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in February of 1942, declaring that certain groups on the west coast would be interned at hastily converted camps. More than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were sent to eleven camps.
For the Miyatake family, it was the Manzanar Camp, 200 miles northeast of L.A. Although internees were not allowed to have cameras at Manzanar, Toyo smuggled in a camera lens and a film holder. The case he needed was built by a fellow internee, a carpenter. The improvised camera is shown in the film, “Toyo’s Camera”. The website, www.toyomiyatake.com, displays the work of his son and grandson, and also has a Manzanar section with Toyo’s photographs at the Camp.
The two photos above, of Toyo Miyatake and the guard tower, were taken by Ansel Adams, a friend of Charles Merritt, the Camp’s administrator. Fortunately for us, in the 1960’s, Adams gave his extensive collection of photographs of Manzanar to the Library of Congress. As an internee, Toyo Miyatake was able to photograph other, intimate views of life in the Camp.
Dorothea Lange also documented the surroundings and internees at Manzana. I recently learned that she had photographed Japanese=Americans as they prepared to leave their homes and businesses shortly after Executive Order 9066. I found that and other new information in a new film “And Then They Came for Us.” More on the film soon!