Their Manzanar Cameras: The American Photographs of Toyo Miyatake and Ansel Adams – A lecture by Nerissa S. Balce (CANCELED)

The genre we know as documentary photography is shaped by the false perception of objectivity, that the photographer and the subjects portrayed are separate and not connected in any way. A documentary photograph is viewed as powerful and memorable if it is a visual image free of or “untainted” by politics. Ansel Adams, for example, is more known as a visual artist of the natural world who captures the beauty of American landscapes. But what is often ignored and rejected by art critics are his sympathetic images of Japanese Americans in the American concentration camp known as Manzanar, that held more than 10,000 Japanese Americans during World War 2. Likewise, the work of Los Angeles-based photographer Toyo Miyatake, who was incarcerated with his family in the camp, was forgotten for decades until Asian American community activists and arts advocates exhibited his work in museums around the country. Miyatake unlike Adams worked under precarious and grueling conditions: he risked his personal safety and his family’s by smuggling a camera into Manzanar. This lecture examines the photographs of both Miyatake and Adams as powerful images of politics and race in a time of war, and how the work of photography is even more relevant now.


Included with admission. Free for members!

Nerissa S. Balce is a cultural studies scholar. Her research focuses on race, gender, state violence and popular culture in the U.S. and the Philippines. She is co-curator of the online art project, Dark Lens / Lente ng Karimlan: The Filipino Camera in Duterte’s Republic, an online exhibition of Philippine photographs of injustice and loss, featuring commissioned poems and captions by 40 scholars and artists from the Philippines and North America. Dark Lens is currently on view at SUNY Stony Brook’s Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice and Policy website. Balce is the author of the book, Body Parts of Empire: Visual Abjection, Filipino Images and the American Archive, winner of the 2018 Best Book award in Cultural Studies from the Filipino Section of the Association for Asian American Studies. The book was also a finalist for the best book in the social sciences for the 2018 Philippine National Book Awards. She is an Associate professor of Asian American studies at SUNY Stony Brook.

Saturday, August 15, 2020
2:00 pm — 3:30 pm (1h 30′)

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