Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Clem Albers & Francis Stewart’s Censored Photographs of a WWII Japanese Internment Camp


Image by Ansel Adams

In places where atrocities or widespread human rights violations occur, we sometimes hear ordinary citizens later claim they didn’t know what was going on. In the case of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, this would be almost impossible to believe. “120,000 people,” notes Newsweek, “lost their property and their freedom,” rounded up in full view of their neighbors. Every major publication of the time reported on Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 Executive Order. Newsweek wrote "that people in coastal areas ‘were more anxious than ever to get rid of their aliens after rumors that signal lights were seen before submarine attacks'" off the coast of Southern California. There were many such rumors, the kind that spread xenophobic fear and paranoia, and which people used to vocally support, or tacitly approve of, sending their neighbors to internment camps because of their ancestry.


Image by Francis Stewart

Other reactions were less than subtle. The West Seattle Herald confronted readers with the blunt headline “GET ‘EM OUT!” Nonetheless, Newsweek’s Rob Verger writes, “the policy was by no means greeted with unanimous support,” and a vigorous public debate played out, with opponents pointing to the blatant racism and violations of civil rights. Two-thirds of the internees were American citizens. Yet all Japanese Americans were repeatedly called “aliens,” language consistent with the virulently anti-Japanese propaganda campaigns emerging at the same time.




Once the camps were built and the internees imprisoned, however, a massive propaganda effort began, not only the sell the camps as a necessary national security measure, but to portray them as idyllic villages where the patriotic internees patiently waited out the war by farming, playing baseball, making arts and crafts, running general stores, attending school, waving flags, and running newspapers.


Image by Clem Albers

Much of that information was conveyed to the public visually by photographers hired by the War Relocation Authority to document the camps. Among them were Clem Albers, Francis Stewart, and Dorothea Lange—well known for her photographs of the Great Depression. All three visited the camp called Manzanar in the foothills of the Sierra mountains. Another famous photographer, Ansel Adams, gained access to Manzanar by virtue of his friendship with its director, Ralph Merritt.


Image by Dorothea Lange

Their photographs, for the most part, show busily working men and women, smiling schoolchildren, and lots of patriotic leisure activities, like Stewart’s photo of sixth grade boys playing softball, further up. The photographers were strictly prohibited from photographing guards, watchtowers, searchlights, or barbed wire, and the heavy military presence at the camp is nearly always out of frame, with some very rare exceptions, like Albers’ photograph above of military police.


Image by Ansel Adams

Adams worked under these prohibitions as well, but his photos captured camp life as honestly as he could. The stunning landscapes sometimes compete, even in the background, with the real subject of some of his images (as in the photo at the top). But he also conveyed the harsh barrenness of the region. He tried to intimate the oppressive police apparatus by capturing its shadow. “The purpose of my work,” he wrote to the Library of Congress in 1965 upon donating his collection, “was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, business and professions, had overcome a sense of defeat and despair [sic].” His images often show internees “in heroic poses,” writes Dinitia Smith, as above, in order to ennoble their conditions. Lange’s photographs, on the other hand, like that of a young girl below, “seemingly unstaged and unlighted… bear the hallmarks” of her “distinctively documentary style.” Her pictures “compress intense human emotion into carefully composed frames.” Some of her photos show smiling, relaxed subjects. Many others, like the photograph of a barracks interior further down, show the faces of weary, uncertain, and despondent civilian prisoners of war.


Image by Dorothea Lange

Perhaps because of her refusal to sentimentalize the camps, or because of her left-wing politics and opposition to internment (both known before she was hired), Lange’s work was censored, not only through restricted access, but through the impoundment of over 800 photographs she took at 21 locations. Those photos were recently published in a book called Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment and hundreds of them are free to view online at the Densho Digital Repository’s Dorothea Lange Collection. The National Park Service’s collection features 16 pictures from Lange’s visit to Manzanar. At the NPS site, you’ll also find collections of photographs from that camp by Adams, Albers, and Stewart. Each, to one degree or another, faced a form of censorship in what they could photograph or whether their work would be shown at all. What most ordinary people saw at the time did not tell the whole story. For all practical purposes, writes Oberlin Library, “life at a Japanese internment camp was comparable to the life of a prisoner behind bars.”


Image by Dorothea Lange

h/t @Histouroborus

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Cindy Sherman’s Instagram Account Goes Public, Revealing 600 New Photos & Many Strange Self-Portraits

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The career of Jenny Holzer, the artist who became famous in the 1970s and 80s through her public installations of phrases like "ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE" and "PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT," has made her into an ideal Tweeter. By the same token, the career of Cindy Sherman, the artist who became famous in the 1970s and 80s through her inventive not-exactly-self-portraits — pictures of herself elaborately remade as a variety of other people, including other famous people, in a variety of time periods — has made her into an ideal Instagrammer.

But though Sherman had been using Instagram for quite some time, most of the public had no idea she had any presence there at all until just this week. "The account, which mysteriously switched from private to public in recent months, is a mix of personal photos alongside Sherman’s ever-famous manipulated images of herself," reports Artnet's Caroline Elbaor.




"What we see here is somewhat of a departure from the artist’s traditional model: the frame is tighter and closer to her face, in what is clear use of a phone’s front-facing camera. Plus, the subject matter is decidedly intimate in comparison to her usual work — the latest posts document a stay in the hospital. She may even be having fun with filters."

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She apparently started having fun with them a few months ago, from one May post whose photo she describes as “Selfie! No filter, hahaha” — but in which she does seem to have made use of certain effects to give the image a few of the suite of uncanny qualities in which she specializes. Though not a member of the generations the world most closely associates with avid selfie-taking, Sherman brings a uniquely rich experience with the form, or forms like it. Her "method of turning the lens onto herself is uncannily appropriate to our times," writes Elbaor," in which the stage-managed selfie has become so ubiquitous that it’s now fodder for exhibitions and often cited as an art form in itself."

Sherman's Instagram self-portraiture, in contrast to the often (but not always) glamorous productions that hung on the walls of her shows before, has entered fascinating new realms of strangeness and even grotesquerie. Using the image-modification tools so many of us might previously assumed were used only by teenage girls desperate to erase their imagined flaws, Sherman twists and bends her own features into what look like living cartoon characters. "A bit scary," one commenter wrote of Sherman's recent hospital-bed selfie (taken while recovering from a fall from a horse), "but I can't look away." Many of the artist's thousands and thousands of new and captivated Instagram followers are surely reacting the same way. Check out Sherman's Instagram feed here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Accidental Wes Anderson: Every Place in the World with a Wes Anderson Aesthetic Gets Documented by Reddit

Wes Anderson's immaculately art-directed, immediately recognizable films may take place in a reality of their own, but that doesn't mean a reality with no connection to ours. To go by their results, the director of The Life Aquatic, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel (to name only three of his most visually distinctive pictures) and his collaborators have clearly immersed themselves in the very real history of the West in the twentieth century, drinking deeply of its fashion, its architecture, and its industrial and graphic design.

So no matter how fanciful his constructed settings — The Royal Tenenbaums' dream of New York City, The Darjeeling Limited's train crossing India in quirky old-school splendor, The Grand Budapest Hotel's unspecific Alpine mitteleuropa — Anderson always assembles them from precedented elements.




And so the habitués of a subreddit called Accidental Anderson have set out to post pictures of his sources, or places that might well pass for his sources, all over not just Europe, of course — where they found the Viennese cafe at the top of the post and the Berliner delivery van with wagon just above — but America, Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

Much of a location's accidental Andersonian potential comes down to its geometry and its colors: deep reds, bright yellows, and especially pale pinks and greens. Many of Anderson's preferred hues appear in the Gold Crest Resort Motel just above, which may strike a fan as having come right out of an Anderson picture even more so than the motel he actually used in his debut feature Bottle Rocket. The director has since moved on to much finer hostelries, which thus form a strong thread among Accidental Anderson's popular postings: Florida's Don CeSar Hotel (known as the "Pink Lady"), Cuba's Hotel Saratoga, Switzerland's Hotel Belvédère, Italy's Grand Hotel Misurnia.

Berlin's humbler Ostel, a themed tribute to the design sensibilities of the former East Germany, might also resonate with the ever-deepening historical consciousness of Anderson's movies. (Remember The Grand Budapest Hotel's titular building, sadly redone in a utilitarian, faintly Soviet avocado-and-ochre during the film's 1960s passages.)

To think that Anderson came from a place no less impossibly distant from the realm of midcentury Europe than Texas, home of the Dallas music store pictured below. Given his increasing popularity, it's hardly a surprise to see his signature aesthetic being not just reflected but adopted around the world. If life continues to imitate art, Accidental Anderson's contributors will long have their work cut out for them. Pay a visit to Accidental Anderson here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Russian History & Literature Come to Life in Wonderfully Colorized Portraits: See Photos of Tolstoy, Chekhov, the Romanovs & More

Colorized episodes of I Love Lucy verge on sacrilege, but Olga Shirnina, a translator and amateur colorist of considerable talent, has unquestionably noble goals when colorizing vintage portraits, such as that of the Romanovs, above.

In her view, color has the power to close the gap between the subjects of musty public domain photos and their modern viewers. The most fulfilling moment for this artist, aka Klimblim, comes when “suddenly the person looks back at you as if he’s alive.”

A before and after comparison of her digital makeover on Nadezhda Kolesnikova, one of many female Soviet snipers whose vintage likenesses she has colorized bears this out. The color version could be a fashion spread in a current magazine, except there's nothing artificial-seeming about this 1943 pose.




“The world was never monochrome even during the war,” Shirnina reflected in the Daily Mail.

Military subjects pose a particular challenge:

When I colorize uniforms I have to search for info about the colours or ask experts. So I’m not free in choosing colors. When I colorize a dress on a 1890s photo, I look at what colors were fashionable at that time. When I have no limitations I play with colours looking for the best combination. It’s really quite arbitrary but a couple of years ago I translated a book about colours and hope that something from it is left in my head.

She also puts herself on a short leash where famous subjects are concerned. Eyewitness accounts of Vladimir Lenin’s eye color ensured that the revolutionary’s colorized irises would remain true to life.

And while there may be a market for representations of punked out Russian literary heroes, Shirnina plays it straight there too, eschewing the digital Manic Panic where Chekhov, Tolstoy, and Bulgakov are concerned.

Her hand with Photoshop CS6 may restore celebrity to those whose stars have faded with time, like Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the original ingenue in Chekhov’s much performed play The Seagull and wrestler Karl Pospischil, who showed off his physique sans culotte in a photo from 1912.

Even the unsung proletariat are given a chance to shine from the fields and factory floors.

Browse an eye popping gallery of Olga Shirnina’s work on her website.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Archive of Iconic Photos from the Golden Age of Jazz: William Gottlieb’s Portraits of Dizzy, Thelonious, Billie, Satchmo & More

If you’ve seen the most famous photographs of Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Frank Sinatra, Django Reinhardt, or nearly any other jazz legend from the mid-20th century, you’ve seen the work of William P. Gottlieb. His photos have graced many a classic album cover, magazine spread, and poster. “Between 1938 and 1948,” writes Maria Popova, Gottlieb “documented the jazz scene in New York City and Washington, D.C., and created what eventually became some of history’s most iconic portraits of jazz greats.” He initially did so as a self-taught amateur, a jazz columnist whose photography was “an afterthought,” notes Gottlieb’s 2006 Washington Post obituary,” mere visual accompaniment to his regular work.”

As Gottlieb once told The New York Times, “I got into photography because The Post was stingy and wouldn’t pay photographers to cover my 11 o’clock concerts.” But he developed an undeniably keen eye for performance.




What’s more, his work is deeply informed by affection and empathy. Gottlieb was an artist who had warm relationships with his subjects. He took the photo at the top, perhaps the most famous image of Billie Holiday, in 1947, when the singer “was at her peak,” he wrote, “musically and physically”—two years clean and sober after her time in a federal prison.

“Regrettably,” he writes, “Billie regressed.” Gottlieb tells the heartbreaking story of the last time he went to see her. The “audience waited… and waited.” The photographer, “playing a hunch,” went backstage to find her “pretty much ‘out of it.’”

I helped her finish dressing, then led her to the microphone. She looked horrible. She sounded worse. I replaced my notebook in my pocket, put a lens cap on my camera, and walked away, choosing to remember this remarkable woman as she once was.

Most of Gottlieb’s stories are not nearly so tragic. Take his last run-in with Louis Armstrong, at their dentist office’s waiting room. “After small talk,” he wrote, “Satchmo looked me over, deciding I, too, had been gaining weight. He reached into his jacket pocket, pulled out a printed diet (that he kept for friends-in-need), and handed me a copy. ‘Pops,’ he said, ‘try this.’ I quickly noted that it featured Pluto Water [a laxative]. But I thanked him, anyway.”

Gottlieb retired from photography and jazz writing in the fifties and made a career as a children’s book author and educational film producer. In 1979, he published 219 of his best photographs in a book called The Golden Age of Jazz, and in 2010, much of Gottlieb’s work entered the public domain, according to The Library of Congress (LOC). You can see hundreds of his photographs—famous images like those of Sarah Vaughan, further up, Thelonious Monk, above, Buddy Rich, below, and so many more—at the Library of Congress’s online William P. Gottlieb Collection. The LOC describes the collection thus:

The online collection provides access to digital images of all sixteen hundred negatives and transparencies, approximately one hundred annotated contact prints, and over two hundred selected photographic prints that show Gottlieb's cropping, burning, and dodging preferences. One can follow the artist's work process by examining first a raw negative, then an annotated contact print, and finally a finished, published product. The Web site also includes digital images of Down Beat magazine articles in which Gottlieb's photographs were first published. Other special features of the online presentation are audio clips of Gottlieb discussing specific photographs, articles about the collection from Civilization magazine and the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, an essay describing Gottlieb's life and work, and a "Gottlieb on Assignment" section that showcases Down Beat articles about Thelonious Monk, Dardanelle, Willie "the Lion" Smith, and Buddy Rich.

You can also download high resolution versions of nearly every image in the archive. (To purchase prints, see Gottlieb's online gallery, Jazz Photos.) There may be no better way, short of actually being there and meeting the stars, to witness the golden age of jazz than through the eyes and ears of such a sympathetic observer as William P. Gottlieb. Enter the collection here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Eadweard Muybridge’s 1870s Photographs of Galloping Horses Get Encoded on the DNA of Living Bacteria Cells

If you've ever studied the history of photography, you've inevitably encountered Eadweard Muybridge’s experiments from the 1870s, which used new innovations in photography to answer a simple question: When a horse trots, do all four of its hooves ever leave the ground at once? The question piqued the curiosity of Leland Stanford, former governor of California and co-founder of Stanford University. And so, as Colin Marshall previously noted here, he "called on an English photographer named Eadweard Muybridge, known for his work in such then-cutting-edge subfields as time-lapse and stereography, and tasked him with figuring it out. Using a series of cameras activated by trip wires as the horse trotted past, Muybridge proved that all four of its hooves do indeed leave the ground, winning Stanford the wager." You can watch the footage resulting from that experiment below.

Above, you can also see the strange new afterlife of that same footage. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

For the first time, [Muybridge’s] movie has been encoded in – and then played back from – DNA in living cells. Scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health say it is a major step toward a “molecular recorder” that may someday make it possible to get read-outs, for example, of the changing internal states of neurons as they develop. Neuroscientist Seth Shipman, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School, explains the study.

Ultimately, this experiment demonstrates the "power to turn living cells into digital data warehouses," writes Wired. Shipman does a good job of unpacking the study. Read more about it over at this NIH website.

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Hand-Colored Photographs from 19th Century Japan: 110 Images Capture the Waning Days of Traditional Japanese Society

What we euphemistically refer to as the “Opening of Japan” catalyzed a period of seismic upheaval for the proud formerly closed country. Between the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in 1853 and the Meiji restoration in 1868, Japanese society changed rapidly due to the sudden forced influx of foreign capital and influence, much of it destructive. “Unemployment rose,” writes historian John W. Dower, “Domestic prices soared sky high…. Much of Japan was wracked by famine in the mid 1860s…. As if all this were not curse enough, the foreigners also brought cholera with them.” They also brought photography, and both Western and Japanese photographers documented not only the country’s profound transformation, but also its traditional dress and culture.

Closed for 200 years, Japan became a source of endless fascination for Westerners as artifacts made their way across the sea. Among them was “an extensive photographic documentation of Japan,” notes the New York Public Library, and “of interaction between the Japanese and foreigners” (Commodore Perry’s expedition to Tokyo Bay included a daguerreotype photographer.)




“In the broadest sense, photography entered Asia from Europe and America as part of the process of colonialism, but soon took root in those regions with local photographers.”

The colorized images you see here come from the NYPL’s large collection of late 19th century Japanese photography, taken by photographers like the Italian-British Felice Beato and his Japanese student Kimbei, who “assisted Beato in the hand-coloring of photographs until 1863,” then “set up his own large and flourishing studio in Yokohama in 1881.” The archive provides “a rich resource for the understanding of the political, social, economic, and artistic history of Asia from the 1870s to the early 20th century.” These images date from between 1890 and 1909, by which time much of Japan had already been extensively westernized in dress, architecture, and style of government.

To many Japanese, the old ways, sustained through a couple hundred years of isolation, must have seemed in danger of slipping away. To many Westerners, however, the encounter with Japan offered a kind of cultural renewal. As the Metropolitan Museum of Art points out, “a tidal wave of foreign imports” from Asia, including “woodcut prints by masters of the ukiyo-e school… transformed Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art." European collectors, traders, and artists discovered a mania for all things Japanese, even as some of its cultural forms threatened to disappear. Enter the NYPL’s digital collection, Photographs of Japan, here.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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