One of the darkest moments in North American history is currently on display at the Western Development Museum.
Photos from two of the world’s most famous photographers, Ansel Adams and Leonard Frank, have been brought together for the Two Views exhibit at the WDM. The collection of 66 photographs from the late artists belonging to the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, B.C. showcases the treatment of Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians by Canadian and American governments after the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
The Canadian and American governments forced citizens of Japanese descent into internment camps in reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Nearly 142,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians were declared enemies of the country as they were forced from their homes and their possessions were confiscated.
Adams, who was born in San Francisco, took his first photograph in 1916. Adams was an advocate of straight, unmanipulated photography. He became famous due to the success of his natural landscape photography and was awarded two fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim memorial foundation in order to photograph America’s national parks. In 1980 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Adams’ photos displayed at Two Views were all taken between 1943 and 1944. He was angered by government policy towards Japanese Americans and made numerous trips to the Manzanar War Relocation Center, a camp where 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during the Second World War, in California. His photographs portray the resilience of about 10,000 of these incarcerated Japanese Americans.
Frank, who was born in Germany in 1872, emigrated to North America in 1892 and landed in Vancouver a few years later. Like Adams, Frank began photographing landscapes. He later moved on to commercial and industrial photography, however, and in the last years of his life between 1942-44, Frank was contracted to document Hastings Park in Vancouver.
Thousands of Japanese Canadians were rounded into Hastings Park during the Second World War. It represents a gross mistreatment of these Canadian citizens as women and children were segregated from the men and made to live in cattle stalls.
Frank’s photographs document the temporary holding areas for these prisoners in Vancouver and are considered shocking and macabre. The images focus on the Canadian government’s institutional force as well as document life in the camps.
In 1988 the Canadian government publically apologized to the detained citizens. This apology came a year after the last surviving Japanese Canadian veteran of the First World War, Masumi Mitsui, passed away.
Two Views premiered Aug. 4 at the WDM and will be on display until Oct. 27.
Photos: Leonard Frank & Ansel Adams/Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre