ANSEL ADAMS LESSON PLAN
PHOTOGRAPHY & HISTORY
Source: Ansel Adams - An Autobiography
The Manzanar Relocation Camp
Ansel Adams made several trips from Yosemite to the Manzanar Relocation Camp in the Owens Valley of eastern California to photograph Japanese-Americans who were interred during World War II.
"The infamous decision of the government (in the time of fear and hysteria following Pearl Harbor) to transport American citizens of Japanese ancestry to several detention camps resulted in most severe hardship among the Japanese American population of the West Coast."
Ansel Adams compares his approach in photographing the situation to that of Dorothea Lange. Dorothea Lange "photographed the misery and bewilderment of the Japanese-Americans", whereas his own photographs "were an attempt to record the accomplishment of the people in rising above their desolate situation."
Lange photographed Japanese Americans "as they were taken to the tarpaper shacks in the desert. Her photographs are shocking, moving documents of a terrible time for those people." Her photographs have "priceless photographic value."
Ansel Adams arrived at Manzanar several years later, "when the relocation camps had been made more livable and functional by the efforts of the inhabitants themselves." He observed their accomplishments in the building of a Japanese garden, farms, schools, churches (Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto), a playground, and small industries. They made the most of the situation and relieved monotony by setting up up cultural studies and events...His photographs were published in Born Free and Equal, along with text he composed. Believing that art must always be positive, he showed the people's courage rather than despair. It was in his text that Ansel was scathingly critical of the detention.
Choose a current issue or situation you feel strongly about. Put together a series of original photographs, drawings or reproductions with or without words to express your views on the subject.
Housatonic Museum of Art