Placing Memory | 1999 - 2008
For many years my concerns as a photographer have centered on the relationships between history, myth, and culture. This work has included a growing exploration of the American landscape and a continued examination of the question: does place hold memory. As part of this work, in 1999 I began an extensive documentation of the ten Japanese American internment sites of World War II. The first site I visited was the Manzanar Relocation Center near Independence, California. Although the only remaining structure was the center’s auditorium (then being used to store highway construction equipment) camp roads, building foundations, garden remains and other remnants from the site’s history were still evident. What surprised me most about my visit to Manzanar was the immediacy of the experience. Although the landscape had been abandoned for over fifty years the presence of 10,000 internees was unmistakable.
Following that first visit to Manzanar, I spent the next several years visiting each of the interment sites making photographs, interviewing former internees, and collecting extensive information about the individual camps. With support from the Charles M. Russell Center the University of Oklahoma Press published the work under the title, Placing Memory/ A Photographic Exploration of Japanese American Internment in December 2008. In addition to my original color photographs, the book includes essays from Natasha Egan, Associate Director at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago; Karen Leong, Professor of Asian Pacific American Studies at Arizona State University; and John Tateishi former National Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League.