Ansel Adams’s Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar

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In the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog:

This collection documents Americans at home, at work, and at play between 1935 and 1945, with an emphasis on rural and small-town life and the adverse effects of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and increasing farm mechanization. In its latter years, the project documented America's mobilization for World War II, including the resettlement of the Japanese Americans. These images were taken mostly in the spring of 1942 in California and include evacuation, selling possessions, transportation to centers, and arrival at camps. Access is by keywords taken from the photo captions, such as "Japanese Americans." The lack of formal subject headings makes it difficult to do a comprehensive search. However, the Web site shows all the negatives made by the FSA/OWI photographers, including those that were rejected for printing for the "open files," now housed in the Prints & Photographs Reading Room. Using the "open files" provides a different and more thorough approach to using the collection to find all printed images on one subject. (Note: These photographs are also available through American Memory as America from the Great Depression to World War II.)


In the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Open Files

The "open files" of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Collection contain most of the photographs shown in the American Memory collection America from the Great Depression to World War II: Black-and-White Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945. These images were taken mostly in the spring of 1942 in California and include evacuation, selling possessions, transportation to centers, and arrival at camps. In the "open files" they are arranged in sections by broad subject (evacuation; selling possessions; transportation to centers; arrival at camps), providing a different approach from the keyword access offered through the online presentation.

LOT 10617

A Japanese-American man hanging a sale sign on a shop window. A young boys stands near him.

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon Japanese merchant posts sale sign in preparation for evacuation as small son looks on. LC-USZ62-120142. P&P Online Catalog.

A group of Japanese-American women and children in the back of the truck.

descriptive record icon enlarge image icon San Pedro, Calif. Apr. 1942. Residents of Japanese ancestry being moved from Los Angeles harbor before their eventual resettlement in war relocation authority centers. LC-USZ62-127305. P&P Online Catalog

These fourteen volumes of photographs were received from the Wartime Civil Control Administration. They were assembled from news agencies and various government sources and are organized into two main categories: evacuation and assembly centers. The evacuation photographs concentrate on California and Arizona while the assembly center photographs are from California, Oregon, and Washington. Of particular interest are photographs of evacuees voting in California state elections or registering for the draft and of the stables at the Santa Anita Race Track being converted into housing.
View selected images from this LOT in the P&P Online Catalog.

LOT 1801

This group of more than two hundred official War Relocation Authority photographs details the evacuation of Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry from the San Francisco and Los Angeles areas. Most of the photographs were taken in April of 1942 and show families before their evacuation and registering with the Wartime Civil Control Administration in San Francisco. The Santa Anita Reception Center is documented as is construction of war relocation centers at Manzanar, California, and Parker, Arizona. The photographs show evacuation to and arrival at assembly centers as well as living conditions and recreational activities.
View selected images from this LOT in the P&P Online Catalog.

LOT 4842

These forty-four photographs show that not all Japanese Americans were put in internment camps. Some were moved to new homes away from the West Coast. These uncaptioned photographs, contributed by the War Relocation Authority, show relocated persons in many different occupations.

LOT 4460

These twenty-four photographs include views of a War Relocation Authority warehouse in Seattle where belongings of evacuees were stored during their internment. Also included are photographs of Christmas pageants at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming and Topaz Relocation Center in Utah.

LOT 2244

These twenty-three untitled Office of War Information photographs were taken at the Tule Lake War Relocation Center. Included are photographs of camp life, a dance, and exterior views.


Related External Web Sites

Ansel Adams

Japanese-American Relocation--General Information

Documentary Materials

  • Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records. Collection number: BANC MSS 67/14c
    University of California, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records include records from the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and the records of the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS) at the University of California, Berkeley. The WRA portion of the collection contains some materials that are not represented in the National Archives collection. JERS was established in 1942 to study the sociological, political, economic, and legal issues of the relocation program. The collection includes journals, diaries, and field reports.
  • War Relocation Authority Photographs. Collection number: BANC PIC 1967.014-PIC
    University of California, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    The War Relocation Authority (WRA) records represent the official documentation of the United States agency created to assume jurisdiction over the Japanese and Japanese-Americans evacuated from California, Oregon, and Washington by the Western Defense Command, the Fourth Army, and the Wartime Civilian Control Administration during January and February of 1942. The collection includes seven thousand photographs and 317 Kodachrome slides arranged into eighteen series. Dorothea Lange's work as a WRA photographer is included in this collection.
  • Manzanar War Relocation Center Records. Collection number: 122
    University of California, Los Angeles, Charles E. Young Research Library, Department of Special Collections
    The collection includes approximately 170 photographs from Ansel Adams's work at the Manzanar War Relocation Center. Additional photographic materials include more than four hundred negatives of Manzanar documenting the construction of the camp through its closing, as well as photographs documenting Japanese internees after they left the camp.
  • National Archives and Records Administration Records of the War Relocation Authority. Record Group 210
    The War Relocation Authority was responsible for the removal, relocation, and supervision of the ten relocation centers for persons of Japanese ancestry. This collection contains textual records, motion pictures, architectural and engineering drawings, and photographs by Dorothea Lange, Hikaru Iwasaki, Clem Albers, Tom Parker, and Charles E. Mace.


  • National Postal Museum, Smithsonian Institution
    An online exhibit of letters sent from young persons interned at the Poston Relocation Center to Miss Clara Breed, a children's librarian in San Diego.
  • University of Utah
    A selection of photographs from the Special Collections Department of the J. Willard Marriott Library of the University of Utah. These images focus on the Topaz Relocation Center in Utah and the Tule Lake Relocation Center in California.
  • University of Washington
    This online exhibit tells the story of the relocation of Seattle's Japanese-American community through photographs, a camp newsletter, and sketches by an internee.


Selected Bibliography

Ansel Adams

Adams, Ansel. Ansel Adams--Images, 1923-1974. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1974.
Call Number: TR654.A33 1974 [P&P folio]

-----. Ansel Adams: The National Park Service Photographs. New York: Abbeville Press, 1984.
Call number: E160.A298 1984 [P&P]

-----. Born Free and Equal: An Exhibition of Ansel Adams Photographs: Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, History and Science. Washington, D.C.: Echolight Corp., 1984.
Call number: TR820.5 .A3 1984

-----. Born Free and Equal: The Manzanar Photographs of Ansel Adams, from the Library of Congress Collection. Edited by Wynne Benti. Bishop, Calif.: Spotted Dog Press, 2002.

-----. Born Free and Equal, Photographs of the Loyal Japanese-Americans at Manzanar Relocation Center, Inyo County, California. New York: U.S. Camera, 1944.
Call number: F870.J3A57 [P&P]

-----. The Mural Project. Photography by Ansel Adams. Santa Barbara: Reverie Press, 1989.
Call number: E160.A299 1989 [P&P]

-----. Yosemite and the Range of Light. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1979.
Call number: TR 660.5.A33 [P&P]

-----, and Toyo Miyatake. Two Views of Manzanar. Edited by Graham Howe, Patrick Nagatani, and Scott Rankin. Los Angeles: Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, UCLA, 1978.
Call number: D769.8.A6 A29

Alinder, James. Ansel Adams: Classic Images. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1986.
Call number: TR647.A43 1985b

Alinder, Mary Street. Ansel Adams: A Biography. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1996.
Call number: TR140.A3 .A79 1996

-----, and Andrea Gray Stillman, eds. Ansel Adams: Letters and Images, 1916-1984. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1988.
Call number: TR140.A3A4 1988 [P&P]

Armor, John. Manzanar. New York: Times Books, 1988.
Call number: D769.8.A6A69 1988 [P&P]

Newhall, Nancy. Ansel Adams: The Eloquent Light. New York: Aperture, 1980.
Call number: TR140.A55N48 1980 x-copy [P&P]

Spaulding, Jonathan. Ansel Adams and the American Landscape: A Biography. Los Angeles: UCLA Press, 1995.
Call number: TR140.A3 S63 1995

Szarkowski, John. Ansel Adams at 100. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., in association with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2001.
Call number: TR647.A236 2001

Japanese-American Internment Camps

Danovitch, Sylvia E. "The Past Recaptured? The Photographic Record of the Internment of Japanese-Americans." Prologue 12, no. 2 (Summer 1980): 91-103.
Call number: CD3020 .P75

Garrett, Jessie A., and Ronald C. Larson, eds. Camp and Community: Manzanar and the Owens Valley. Fullerton: California State University, 1977.
Call number: D769.8.A6 C23

Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki, and James D. Houston. Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience during and after World War II Internment. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973.
Call number: E184.J3 H63

Inada, Lawson Fusao. Only What We Could Carry: The Japanese American Internment Experience. Berkeley, Calif.: Heyday Books, 2000.
Call number: D769.8.A6 O55 2000

Inouye, Mamoru. The Heart Mountain Story: Photographs by Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel of the World War II Internment of Japanese Americans. [Los Gatos, Calif.]: M. Inouye, 1997.
Call number: D769.8.A6 I56 1997

Murray, Alice Yang, and Roger Daniels. What Did the Internment of Japanese Americans Mean? Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000.
Call number: D769.8.A6 W53 2000

Okihiro, Gary Y. Whispered Silences: Japanese Americans and World War II. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996. Includes photographs of ten Japanese relocation camps by Joan Myers.
Call number: D769.8.A6 O36 1996

Robinson, Greg. By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Call number: D769.8.A6 R63 2001

Tateishi, John. And Justice for All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999.
Call number: D769.8.A6 A67 1999

Unrau, Harlan D. The Evacuation and Relocation of Persons of Japanese Ancestry during World War II: A Historical Study of Manzanar War Relocation Center. [Denver, Colo.?]: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1996.
Call number: D769.8.A6 U57 1996