Japanese-American Concentration Camps (1993-1995)

For most of my adult life I have been aware of the historical, political, philosophical, and psychological issues that define the "relocation" or "concentration camp" experience in which 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, endured from 1942-1945 here in the United States of America. My parents, John Nagatani and Diane (Yoshimura) Nagatani were interned at Jerome and Manzanar.

During the last twenty-four years, I have been making art and my primary medium has been photography. The images that I make are essentially constructed in the studio. That is, I work within a "directorial mode" or arrangement for the camera. However, in a body of work about the "marriage" of the nuclear age within the historical and contemporary issues of New Mexico, I made site-specific landscape images that were reworked for a variety of metaphorical reasons. My original working process intent with the Japanese-American Concentration Camps project was to "make" pictures similar to the earlier Nuclear Enchantment work.

Because of the informational and experiential quality that we attribute to photographs, I have always felt that it is a medium that absorbs contextual information, deals with history and/or memory, and images usually yield complex readings that simultaneously intrigue the intellect as well as arouse visual analysis. The Japanese-American Concentration Camp work is comprised of over 124 images of the ten major camps as they exist after their closings fifty-two years ago. I have been compelled in making the work to observe, experience, and record in a "straight" and "formalistic documentary" style. Information, for me, being a paramount concern. Somewhere in the process, I desire depictions of the actual place and "truth".

My approach to the work has allowed me to be part historian, archaeologist, geologist, cartographer, photographer, and the Japanese-American sansei investigating what has been a part of my cultural identity. What I discovered was personally twofold. An experience of the present, what exists now in the landscape of the camps. The old foundations, decaying structures, rusting nails, concrete fish ponds, rock gardens, farmed fields, dirty-dry desert, unused concrete water tanks, cemeteries, recently erected plaques and monuments, the surrounding mountains, the weather, and the silence. In all of my visits much of the later part of the working process (after having made pictures) meant just looking at the ground or sitting. At Topaz, I found among the thousands of rusting nails, a flattened and rusted tin truck. Close by a fully intact trilobite (from the Paleozoic period) was discovered. The present and the past linked. I could not help experience, observe, and record without linking the past with the work. I am intrigued with how things must have been and what informed the landscape and experience for those 120,000 Japanese-Americans, victims of wartime hysteria and racism.

Landscape retains memory. I felt the individual and collective memories that were inherent to all the camps in one way or another. Every camp is vividly etched in my mind and the images that I have selected to print are in a very small manner a way to share this personal experience. This work has been for me experiential and sentimental. I realize now, after having been to the ten camps, the experience has been very important for me in further developing my own cultural identity. I dedicate this work to my parents and to the other 120,000 inmates, many who are still living, all having had to live at these places and whose memories I encountered.

Site Seer: Patrick Nagatani’s Japanese American Concentration Camp Portfolio

By Jasmine Alinder

I am reluctant to ‘add’ my reworking through manipulation or construction to the idea of the landscape. The landscape at each site that I visited spoke for itself…., the obscurity of some of the places, the heat, the cold, the wind, the bugs, the fences, the openness, the graves, the monuments, .…

--Patrick Nagatani

It’s all right there on the map.
It’s all right there in the mind.
Find it. If you care to look.
--Lawson Fusao Inada, from “Concentration Constellation.”

From expansive landscapes to microscopic studies, Patrick Nagatani’s Japanese American Concentration Camp portfolio documents what remains in the ten central locations where the United States government incarcerated 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens by birth. Image after image offers desolate environments full of detritus but often empty of life. It is hard to imagine that five decades before Nagatani’s visit, these places operated as small cities, populated with thousands who slept and ate within the confines of barbed wire fences and armed sentries. Those prisoners are long gone, but their wartime experiences remain anchored in these sites—in the stone steps that lead to nowhere, in the concrete foundations that no longer support walls, in the twisted clotheslines, in the reclaimed barracks, and in the newer monuments that memorialize what happened here so many years ago. This essay will take a careful look at the JACC portfolio, charting the photographic territory that Nagatani mined in the mid-1990s as he connected with a historical past that this project helped him to claim as his own.

Two months after Pearl Harbor, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving authority to a mass incarceration that disregarded due process and the constitutional rights guaranteed to United States citizens. In the spring of that year, Japanese Americans living on the west coast prepared for their lives in prison. They sold possessions and businesses, boarded up houses, let go of pets and packed suitcases. They traded in their names for numbers, which labeled tags dangling from their coats and identified their possessions. And they boarded trains and buses to begin their lives as prisoners first at intermediary camps referred to euphemistically as Assembly Centers and then later at larger concentration camps referred to as Relocation Centers.

Small cities circumscribed by barbed wire sprang up in desolate and remote places such as Manzanar, California; Topaz, Utah; and Minidoka, Idaho. Japanese Americans lived out the war years in barracks, eating army rations, foregoing privacy, facing harsh environments and enduring the stigma of looking like the enemy. It would be difficult for anyone, who has not been through such an experience, to imagine losing three years out of one’s life. It is hard to imagine letting go of everything one had worked hard to acquire and achieve. Yet, perhaps harder still to repair a shattered sense of trust and belonging after the United States government ignored its own foundational principles codified in the Constitution by denying Japanese Americans their citizenship rights.

Given this very brief historical context, it is not difficult to make sense of Patrick Nagatani’s Japanese American Concentration Camps portfolio on the level of content. The photographs speak to the personal histories of Nagatani’s parents who were both imprisoned. But in the context of Nagatani’s larger oeuvre, which this catalog provides, a striking formal contrast is apparent between the JACC portfolio and other Nagatani projects; as if another artist made the JACC portfolio entirely. Where are the studio sets, the model props, and the painted backdrops? Where is the play with scale, the dry sense of humor, the overlapping cultural signs? In the JACC portfolio, Nagatani has traded in his bag of stylistic tricks for the simplicity of the unmanipulated, color landscape photograph. He has adopted an approach that evokes the matter-of-factness of documentary, and refuses to evoke technical complexity, which had been the hallmark of his previous work. The photographs he produced for the JACC portfolio appeared to be such a stylistic aberration that after he exhibited the images at the Japanese American Community and Cultural Center in Los Angles in 1995, he was able to secure only one other exhibition at the Albuquerque Museum of Art but practically no attention in the art press. Such methodological breaks require explanation.

Patrick Nagatani was born after the war in Chicago—the product of two Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans). Nagatani’s mother was incarcerated in Manzanar and his father in Jerome, Arkansas. After the war, Diane and John did not return to their homes in California but relocated to Chicago where they met and married. They had a family and moved back to Los Angeles in 1955. Like so many other Sansei (third-generation Japanese Americans), Nagatani recalls that his Nisei parents rarely spoke of “camp.” In their reluctance to speak openly about incarceration, the Nagatani’s are similar to many others of the Nisei generation. According to research conducted by Donna K. Nagata, the psychological impetus for this unwillingness ranges from post-traumatic stress disorder and shame to the lack of broader recognition of incarceration by the government and other Americans.1 Although Patrick had a vague notion that his mother had been in camp as a child, it was not until the 1990s that he learned that his father had been imprisoned in Arkansas. Although the Nagatani’s did not talk about their wartime experiences when Patrick was a child, they began to divulge a bit more after Patrick began work on the JACC project. Small, symbolic shards of stories resurfaced. Patrick brought his mother to Manzanar on his first shoot, and she remembered a young girl who wandered away from camp towards the Sierras and never came back.

After the portfolio was completed, I went to go visit Patrick’s parents in Los Angeles to ask them about their experiences in “camp.” Before I went to the interview, Patrick warned me that his father, who had been less forthcoming than his mother, would say that camp was “good.” Sure enough, as we sat around their kitchen table, John Nagatani said exactly that. His family had owned a farm near Fresno, California, in the town of Hanford. John’s father had never taken a day off in his life but in camp he was given food and shelter and did not have to work. It was his first vacation, he said.

He did not pause long before Diane interjected, “Yes, but it killed him.” John gave a sad look—not of full agreement but concession. His father had died in camp, not because of a mortal wound meted out by an MP’s rifle, but because he was idle and emasculated, stripped of his authority as the breadwinning patriarch. John continued his story, saying that his mother returned to Hanford after the war to the house that he had boarded up himself. Luckily, their neighbors had kept watch for them so their property was maintained, but she returned without her husband, or her son, as John had left Jerome for Chicago.

Patrick’s mother Diane also told a story that initially cloaked devastation in benign attire. She said that she was too young to suffer during incarceration but then offered the harrowing details of her father’s arrest. Diane was out of high school, about 19 or 20, when the “evacuation” of Japanese Americans began. Her father had served in the Japanese army so the night after the attack on Pearl Harbor the FBI came with flashlights and took him away without warning and without a warrant. The experience had scared her a great deal, especially since her father was a single parent. Because of her father’s status as a Japanese veteran, the family was split up. He was sent to a Justice Department incarceration camp in Santa Fe, New Mexico, while she and her brother were sent to Manzanar. But after these brief revelations, the stories stopped and instead they spoke admiringly of their children.

As those Sansei children came of age starting in the 1970s and into the 1990s, many began to challenge their parents’ silence with their own desire to understand how the incarceration happened and how such a significant event could remain so deeply buried. Like many Sansei, who did not experience the incarceration directly and whose parents avoided the topic, Patrick Nagatani recognized the gravity of this event and its influence on his own life. Listening to Sansei accounts of how they learned about the wartime incarceration in school or from a television program, one starts to understand the feelings of disconnection. How do you recall a past you never directly experienced? What if you are a tourist visiting your own history? How do you collapse the distance? For Nagatani, the answer was not bound up in holding more conversations with his parents, but in a desire to set foot on the ground where these events took place.

Motivated by his father’s incarceration, Nagatani began making pictures in Jerome, Arkansas in the summer of 1993. On one of the last days in the typically humid month of August, he searched for evidence of this father’s imprisonment fifty years earlier. He found growing crops, train tracks, dirt roads, storage structures, and a sky ranging from pale blue to gray. When Patrick called his father from a diner with a son’s plea for an explanation of what had happened there, his father replied that he had spent his time going from one mess hall to the next looking for the best cooking. No longer a child, but still unable to get the answers he needed, Patrick photographed the site as if he was returning to a place he knew, instead of seeing it for the first time.

Unlike many of the sites in the west coast, Jerome is a working farm, and although sparsely populated does not feel nearly as remote as Manzanar or Topaz. Like many of the sites, a monument to the wartime concentration camp marks Jerome. Patrick’s first photograph of Jerome, like several others in the portfolio, encourages the viewer to consider how those monuments function within a site. Just to the left of center sits a marker, titled “Jerome, Relocation Center,” whose gray marble suggests the heroics that accompany history significant enough to be chiseled into solid rock. Framing the marker are tree trunks stripped bare in the utilitarian service of electricity conveyance and connected by wires with follow the dirt road into the background, creating a rhythm of parallel lines. To read the marker’s text, which tells of unjust imprisonment due to “wartime hysteria,” the viewer must engage the photographic surface up close and squint so that the letters pop into focus. The text, general enough for a marker in any of the sites, acknowledges local civic bodies responsible for its placement but is much less clear assigning responsibility for the incarceration itself.2 The army is described as constantly surveying those in the camps, robbing individuals of privacy. President Roosevelt is recorded as having signed Executive Order 9066. Although the marker is highly critical of the Executive Order, it fails to note that the Japanese American Citizens League, one of the groups responsible for placing the marker, discouraged rebellion against the Order during the war and vigorously encouraged its members to relocate peacefully in order to prove loyalty.

This monument, oriented towards the entrance of the camp, marks the land in an official capacity. Though its text reflects increasing consciousness that this was not a proud moment in United States history, it provides a very limited, fixed narrative of historical events. In the right foreground of the Jerome image, an orange and black sign, the “metaphorical” marker of the picture, spells out “Warning.” Nagatani included this sign placed by the telephone company within his frame in order to encourage the viewer to read the monument with suspicion. By calling the historical narrative of the official marker into question, Nagatani’s photograph offers a more discursive representation of the past—one that accommodates a wide range of memories and experiences.

The JACC images, which emphasize these negotiations between the memorial marker and the viewer, also foreground the influence of the physical settings in the construction of memory. In many ways these monuments establish a dialogue with the sites themselves. As James Young has explained, “memorials tend to concretize particular historical interpretations…a monument becomes a point of reference amid other parts of the landscape, one node among others in a topographical matrix that orients the rememberer and creates symbolic meaning in both the land and our recollections.”4 The clash between the monuments and the sites, between newly poured concrete pedestals and ruined concrete foundations, is evocative of the contrasting experiences and histories of the incarceration. Nagatani makes that dialogue explicit by serially arranging the images to contrast monument with ruins.

The photographs that he made in Jerome on August 28, represent a topographic account that fixed on tangible links to his father’s past—as if the landscape could serve as a substitute for all of the memories that went untold. For Nagatani, making the journey to the incarceration camp sites was as meaningful and personally significant as any image he produced from his trip, because it tied him to the land where his family had been tested in ways that he had never known. This first group of images marked the tentative beginning of what would become a comprehensive photographic survey of the ten central concentration camps.

After Jerome, Nagatani journeyed to Manzanar, California. Located about 250 miles northeast of Los Angeles, Manzanar is nestled below a breathtaking stretch of the Sierra Nevada. When Nagatani visited in the 1990s, Manzanar was forbidding and fairly undeveloped. Although the site came to life annually with Days of Remembrance events, more recently a visitor’s center and museum have transformed the site from forsaken to sanctioned historical ground. Nagatani first photographed the official markers before moving deeper into the site in search of the remains of the camp. The fourth image is particularly remarkable both in its visual impact and in haunting reference it makes to the camp. The photograph leads the viewer away from the roadway up two steps built within a short, stone retaining wall. These steps now lead to nowhere: they are the tangible remnants of incarceration set against the sweeping stretch of Sierras in the background.

In other photographs of Manzanar, Nagatani traveled the camp and found old storage containers, stone markers and dry stone ponds--evidence of past habitation, durable relics of ephemeral structures, foreign to and with the passage of time integrated with the natural landscape. The tension between these objects and the surrounding land is surreal and incongruous because the remains seem to grow out of the earth and disintegrate into it. The last photograph of Manzanar moves the viewer away from ruins back to memorialized ground. A tall, white obelisk sits on the earth inscribed with Japanese characters that read “August 1943; Monument to the dead Japanese of Manzanar.”5 Rusting sentinels, pierced to accommodate a restraining rope that has disappeared, protects the marker. Behind it a thin wire fence running between posts keeps visitors from penetrating the land any further. This area was the camp cemetery. Sitting stolidly in the back of the site, geographically opposed to the camp entrance, this obelisk has functioned as a memorial steadfastly, solemnly communicating the loss experienced by those incarcerated.

In his excursion around Manzanar, Nagatani brings the viewer in the front door and then moves along the side and out the back. The photographic survey allows the viewer to participate in a phenomenological journey through the former camp. The act of looking carefully at the surface of the photograph, moving up stone steps or around a grave marker replicates the photographer’s movements over the ground. The images visually describe the relationship between place, object and Nagatani’s lens. His photographs function like pictorial maps, much in the same way that art historian Svetlana Alpers has described seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting, “the map allowed one to see something that was otherwise invisible…Like lenses, maps were referred to as glasses to bring objects before the eye.”6 In his artist’s statement he writes, “My approach to this work allowed me to be part historian, archeologist, geologist, cartographer, photographer, and the Japanese American Sansei investigating what has long been a part of my cultural identity.” Nagatani’s photographs make history, politics and memory visible through the representation of topography. By bringing the surfaces—sand, weeds, ruins and monuments—in front of the eye, Nagatani’s images render the layers of buried past as visible as the concrete foundations he photographs.

Two of Nagatani’s photographs made in Topaz, Utah, depict the decaying object in the desolate landscape. In both pictures, Nagatani tilts his lens down toward the ground, denying the horizon in favor of a close examination of the earth’s surface. From its microscopic orientation, his camera discovers a rusting toy truck whose design suggests that is has been left behind by an incarcerated child. Another photograph of the ground reveals a scattering of old bent and brown nails resting above cracked dirt. The nails, which presumably held the camp’s barracks together, now are imbued with the kind of sacredness associated with relics. These objects provide the mute testimony of artifacts.

During the war, Manzanar may have been the most photographed of the incarceration camps. Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake all made significant bodies of work in Manzanar; Miyatake while he himself was incarcerated. As a professor of fine arts, Nagatani is acutely aware of these artistic predecessors. While a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, he collaborated on an exhibition and catalogue that compared Adams’ and Miyatake’s photographs of Manzanar. At that time, he did not consider taking on the topic in his own photography, but the exhibition allowed him to delve more into this history. In the catalogue, Two Views of Manzanar, Nagatani and his co-author Graham Howe, celebrated both photographers’ work.

The JACC portfolio also has a contextual basis in the broader history of landscape photography, which lies at the heart of the American photographic enterprise. Any photographer who points his or her lens towards the land inherits a sizable tradition whose imagery has served the country self-reflexively, providing Americans with a conception of self defined by the grandiosity of our country’s topography. In his artist’s statement, Nagatani fashioned himself as an “archeologist” surveying, exploring and mapping territory much like the photographers of the nineteenth century geologic surveys. Nagatani’s photograph of truck tracks leading away from the Gila River Butte Monument recalls Timothy O’Sullivan’s Sand Dunes, Carson Desert, Nevada from 1867. Both images picture the photographer at work, in the act of framing and creating the image, turning the landscape into subtle self-portraits.

In addition to these moments of self-referentiality, Nagatani’s images complicate a romantic notion of landscape because they often use a heroic mode to picture what remains of nationally sponsored, unheroic acts. Far from the untouched majesty of the natural world that many associate with western landscape photography, Nagatani’s photographs implicate that same land in oppressive man made deeds that contradict more common associations of landscape with freedom. If Adams’ landscapes of mountains represent the American west as we imagine it, Nagatani’s photographs show us as we are. Adams’ Winter Sunrise, The Sierra Nevada, From Lone Pine, California, of 1943, for example, has become a recognized masterwork of landscape photography, rarely linked to the source of its original publication, Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese Americans. Nagatani ensures that his photographs will remain connected to the historical events they reference. He does this by introducing the portfolio with factual text, including a map of the sites, statistics on incarcerated populations, and a list of image titles. Those titles reiterate the title of the portfolio, Japanese American Concentration Camps, along the signature line under each image.

In addition to heroic western landscape photography, Nagatani also links his strategies to Lewis Baltz and other “New Topographic” photographers who came to prominence in the 1970s with purposefully anti-heroic, black and white photographs of suburban structures such as tract homes and industrial parks. Because the viewer often brings expectations of natural beauty to landscape images, photographs that picture a prosaic environment devoid of such beauty undermine viewers’ assumptions of representational categories. In Nagatani’s photographs of Jerome and Tule Lake, Nagatani chose unremarkable vantage points which in no way accentuated the natural beauty of the pictured environment. In many of his images, Baltz deliberately avoids referencing anything outside of the site, so that the image retains the generic and anonymous feel of the suburban sprawl. Nagatani’s vantage points, however, feel far from generic. He includes significant details that allow the composition, even though it initially appears to be banal, to signify on more complex levels. In the Tule Lake image, for example, Nagatani depicts lived in structures behind a chain link fence. Those buildings were the barracks used during the incarceration, currently in use to house another displaced population, migrant farm workers.

Nagatani’s photographs of Amache, Colorado, also exploit the banality of New Topographics. The horizon line bisects the photographs separating blank blue sky from sagebrush-covered earth. In one image an abandoned structure sits isolated. In another, strong weeds have begun to poke through the cracks of a cement foundation. The trees that line the concrete floor look out of place, and in fact they are not indigenous to the environment. The imported trees and concrete connect vividly to the time when Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and replanted in desert environments. The single structure in the center of the empty desert is perhaps a more poignant memorial than the official markers, but it is ambiguous. A third photograph taken within the camp’s cemetery reveals a grave marker titled “Evacuees Unknown,” referring specifically to the historical event and its human cost. The strong horizon line is reinforced by a wire fence, which cuts through the image like staff lines, converting a windmill in the distance into a musical note. Reading these photographs sequentially, the viewer sees the continuum of habitation, desertion and emptiness—the photographer’s implied presence, like the offering of pink lilies to the grave, serve as a small consolation in the otherwise bleak, lonely environment.

In contrast to the images of Amache, many of the photographs from Heart Mountain, Wyoming, depict a grand landscape. In one photograph, Heart Mountain itself, referred to as abalone mountain because of its flat shape, reaches toward a dramatic sky filled with storm clouds. In the foreground of the photograph, train tracks cut through the image at a slight diagonal. A light brown band of dirt marks a road that runs parallel to the train tracks. These conduits reference the forced migration and dislocation of Japanese American prisoners at the same time that they make the viewer aware of this land’s current emptiness.

When Nagatani first conceptualized the project, he envisioned that his working method would be similar to that used in his previous project, the Nuclear Enchantment series. As I outlined at the beginning of the essay, this method of art making valued photography as both beginning and ending points, sandwiching a multi-media assemblage. For the Nuclear Enchantment images, Nagatani used an enlarged black and white landscape photograph which served as a backdrop onto which he painted, and in front of which he hung life-sized, cut out, painted photographs of figures, and other hanging objects including model airplanes. After the stage set was complete, Nagatani then photographed the tableau, democratizing the varied textures and crafted surfaces with the smooth, glossy finish of a chromogenic print, and recording the layers of manipulation that occurred up until the release of the camera’s shutter. The final photograph provided the finished piece. Nagatani foregrounds the layering so that the strings holding up the props along with the brush strokes are visible in a way that the photographic process itself cannot easily be made visible. The photographic book ends of this process both receive and exhibit the work of art, allowing the picture both to exist and to be seen. With this type of artistic method, it becomes impossible to speak of “image” in the singular, because the process itself is central to the work. In this sense, the JACC portfolio evolved from a similar working method because for Nagatani the process of visiting the sites was for him the most important part of the project. The photographs codify and memorialize his visit but are not a substitute for the journey itself.

After Nagatani completed his cross-country trip to the camps, he decided to forgo his typical artistic process. He abandoned his studio plan in favor of unmanipulated, color landscape photographs. Nagatani also replaced his typically large format, high-gloss color paper with basic color paper, Kodak Supra Ektacolor, with a matte surface and a relatively small format, 11x14 inches, mounted to 16x20 inches. He made these technical modifications because he wanted the places themselves, what had been most important to him personally, to be emphasized instead of the photographic materials and the hand of the artist.

Nagatani’s desire to make a pilgrimage to the sites of the concentration camps and to represent that journey photographically explain his methodological break with his previous work. Because an older generation of Japanese Americans has often been unable to communicate their experiences of the incarceration, Sansei must piece together their own histories from different sources. The photographs Nagatani produced describe the places and represent his experience of their making, but because he often traveled alone, and has no direct access to the memories his parents were unlikely to share, he could not infuse the sites with past personal narratives. With the exhibition of the photographs, the images began to talk. When Nagatani exhibited the portfolio at the Japanese Americans Community and Cultural Center, former prisoners used the pictures as descriptive links to memory. People who had been in the camps recognized the environments, pointed to photographs and told stories. The ease with which viewers took to the photographs explains in part the strategy behind making straightforward color landscapes. The absence of overt manipulation, signifies artlessness, and contributes to their accessibility and legibility so that those who had been most directly affected by the incarceration felt welcome to contribute to the images’ meanings. The very reasons why the portfolio failed to garner art press attention are those that allowed the photographs to facilitate dialogue.

The JACC photographs served as tools to allow Japanese Americans who had lived there to tell stories to others who had not experienced the sites first hand and, therefore, became a means of virtual pilgrimage. Pilgrimage, as theorized by Jack Kugelmass to explain Jewish American tourism to Poland, can be a type of “secular ritual” in which certain groups journey to a particular site to link self to a collective past, to confirm identity, to encounter symbols of group experience, to reclaim territory and to sensualize history.7 These motivations for pilgrimage rely on the site to serve as a space in which the group can perform memory work. The experience of virtual pilgrimage offered by Nagatani’s work allows these issues to be remembered and discussed when, for many; actual travel to the camp sites is not possible. Furthermore, the photographs prompt intergenerational dialogue between Nisei, Sansei and Yonsei, giving the pilgrimage a sense not only of closing geographical distance but also of bridging generational divides.

Thinking of viewers as participants in virtual pilgrimage forges links to Nagatani’s previous work. His JACC photographs, like the Nuclear Enchantment series, required extensive reconnaissance work, and foreground contested sites, layers multiple experiences, and serve as photographic theaters. But instead of being manufactured in the studio, the JACC photographs act as proscenium in the space of the museum. With viewers in front of them, exchanging stories, experiences and memories, the JACC images transform into stages on which memory actively negotiates its relationship to the present.

1 Donna K. Nagata, “Japanese American Incarceration: Exploring the Transgenerational Consequences of Traumatic Stress,” Journal of Traumatic Stress 3 (1990): 47-69. 

2 The marker’s text reads: “Jerome, Relocation Center, 1942-1944, On February 19, 1942, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt signed into law Executive Order No. 9066, interning over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, and this act irrevocably changed their lives. The majority of these people were American citizens. As a result of all this war time hysteria these people were forcibly removed from their homes on the West coast of the United States and also in Hawaii to be interned by the War Department in one of the ten relocation centers located in the interior of the U.S.A. At Jerome there were over 6,700 interned from September 1, 1942 and through July 1944. These temporary shelters with shared living quarter [sic] community dining halls and gathering facilities were the norm. Constant on-going surveillance by the army served as a constant reminder of each resident’s captivity and loss of freedom. This memorial is dedicated by the Jerome Preservation Committee an [sic] also the Japanese American Citizen League to those persons of Japanese ancestry who suffered the indignity of being incarcerated because of their ethnic background. May this monument serve to remind us of all these incidents and inspire us to be more vigilant and more alert in the safe guarding of the rights of all Americans, regardless of their race, color or creed.”

3 Roger Daniels, Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans during World War II (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993) 58. Michi Weglyn, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976) 44.

4 James Young, “Memory and Counter-Memory: Towards a Social Aesthetic of Holocaust Memorials,” After Auschwitz: Responses to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art, Monica Bohm-Duchen, ed. (Sunderland: N. Center for Contemporary Art, 1995) 82.

5 Translation David Rosenfeld.

6 Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1983) 133-135.

7 Jack Kugelmass, “The Rites of the Tribe: American Jewish Tourism in Poland,” Museum and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture, Ivan Karp, ed. (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992) 382-427.