Nancy Matsumoto

Nancy Matsumoto is a freelance writer and editor specializing in the areas of sustainable agriculture, food, arts, culture and health. She has been a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, Time, People, Civil Eats, NPR’s The Salt, and the online Densho Encyclopedia of the Japanese American Incarceration, among other publications. She is also the co-author of the book The Parent's Guide to Eating Disorders: Supporting Self-Esteem, Healthy Eating & Positive Body Image at Home.

Twitter/Instagram: @nancymatsumoto

Updated June 2017

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 13 of 18 (Toyo Miyatake)

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While Lange and Adams photographed Manzanar from the outside, Toyo Miyatake was the ultimate insider. Imprisoned at Manzanar almost from its opening to its closure, from 1942 to 1945, Miyatake witnessed and photographed, at first surreptitiously, then with official permission, a much broader range of scenes and activities than Adams and Lange. 

One of the most powerful and well-known of the 1,500 photographs Miyatake took of the concentration camp and its residents depicts three boys appearing to gaze out of the camp through a barbed wire fence, with a guard tower visible in the distance. It ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 12 of 18 (Dorothea Lange)

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“Everything Is Propaganda”

Lange’s outlook on life informed the pictures she took at Manzanar. Where Adams saw the rugged natural setting as spirit-lifting and awe-inspiring, Lange saw it as brutal and oppressive. Where Adams saw opportunity and triumph of spirit at Manzanar, Lange saw suffering and a gross breach of civil rights. Because most of her photos of the Japanese American evacuation and imprisonment were suppressed, and perhaps because American citizens were not ready for their message, it was not until the 1960s that many Americans were able to recognize Lange’s subject for what it ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 11 of 18 (Dorothea Lange)

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Part Two: Dorothea Lange

When Lange arrived at Manzanar in 1942 to take photos for the WRA, she was already famous for her 1930s documentary photos of the rural poor, part of her work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Her best known work, the bleakly beautiful Migrant Mother , a portrait of a seasonal farm worker and her two children, captured the weariness and desperation of rural America and became the iconic image of the Great Depression.

Lange was not instantly hailed as the champion of the downtrodden in the Japanese prison camps, however; that took several ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 10 of 18 (Ansel Adams)

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It was not until I looked at an online version of the 1944 Born Free and Equal ( ) that I felt the full impact of Adams’s message. This original version includes several landscapes omitted from a 2002 reprint (Spotted Dog Press, Inc., Bishop, CA), including his majestic Winter Sunrise, The Sierra Nevada, from Lone Pine California 1944 and Mount Williamson, Sierra Nevada, from Manzanar, California (see Part 6 for more on why these were omitted). Adams included these images in the original Born Free and Equal to elevate his message ...

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Documenting Manzanar - Part 9 of 18 (Ansel Adams)

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Walking a Fine Line 

In Born Free and Equal, Adams struggled to walk a fine line between advocating for the imprisoned Japanese while not leaving himself vulnerable to charges of disloyalty. The Nisei, too, walked that line, balancing hurt and anger with a desire for approval from the country where most of them had been born. Born Free and Equal opens with a quote from the 14th Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing all citizens of the United States the right to life, liberty, property and equal protection under the law. This is followed immediately by a quotation ...

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