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A Monthly Culture Matrix For the Cosmopolitan Traveler

Japanese-American Photographs, 1920-1940

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J. Paul Getty Museum Online / Los Angeles / Art

When Japanese Americans heard the news of the 1941 bombing at Pearl Harbor, they also heard a death knell to their freedom. Discrimination had already forced many to form their own coalitions, such as The Japanese Camera Pictorialists of California, which hosted exhibitions, housed shared darkrooms, and provided mentorship to budding photographers and hobbyists. The works from this collective were acclaimed, blending traditional Japanese aesthetics with a modernist approach, and they were sent to Paris and London for viewings. But with the Enemy Alien Act of 1941, which declared cameras as contraband, works were destroyed. Months later, many of these artists were incarcerated in the mass internment of 120,000 Japanese-American citizens. Just 74 photographs from the Pictorialists association survived, collected four decades later by professor Dennis Reed. This virtual exhibition displays Reed’s collection, which celebrates almost forgotten talents while telling the tragic story that surrounds these stunning images. —C.J.F.

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