Monday, July 18, 2011

Two Views: Photographs by Ansel Adams
and Leonard Frank

Nanaimo Museum
May 20 to August 21, 2011

This compelling collection of photographs is a travelling exhibit from the Japanese Canadian National Museum and presents two views of internment and incarceration in the early 1940s. This exhibition provides an opportunity to reflect on the nature of forced separation and uprooting and the effects this has on its victims. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, both the Canadian and American governments forced the relocation of citizens of Japanese descent from the coastal regions. Nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans and 22,000 Japanese Canadians were affected including Nanaimo’s small Japanese community.

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) is usually thought of as a landscape photographer, a maker of images that blend drama and contemplation. From 1943 to 1944, Ansel Adams made a number of trips to Manzanar War Relocation Center. His powerful photographs capture the harsh daily life and resilience of the 10,000 Japanese Americans incarcerated there during World War II. When he offered the collection to the Library of Congress, Adams wrote, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice, and loss of property, businesses and professions, had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.”

Leonard Frank (1870-1944) was hired by the BC Security Commission to record the removal of Canadians of Japanese descent from the BC Coast. In 1942, he was contracted as the documentary photographer of the BC internment. Frank’s documentary photographs of the Japanese put into Hastings Park temporary holding areas, are both stark and shocking. The images of the cavernous buildings give a unique perspective, focusing on the bureaucratic systems in place rather than the suffering of the community. Frank also documented the moving process and visited several camps in the interior of BC.

― text: Nanaimo Museum website.