Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams

October 8, 2015–February 21, 2016

About the Exhibition

Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams presented a lesser-known dimension of celebrated photographer Ansel Adams’s body of work, and offered insight into a decisive and disquieting period in American history. Presented at the Skirball in association with the Japanese American National Museum, the exhibition featured fifty photographs by Adams of the Japanese American incarceration camp in Manzanar, California, during World War II. These photographs were the subject of Adams’s controversial book Born Free and Equal, published in 1944 while war was still being waged. The book protested the treatment of these American citizens and what Adams called their “enforced exodus.” Powerful forms of civic and artistic expression, the images spoke to the Skirball’s mission of confronting injustice, embracing diversity, and preserving community. Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams was curated by Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and organized by Photographic Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA.

In addition to Adams’s work, the Skirball’s presentation of the exhibition included other photographs, documents, publications, artifacts, and works of art that detailed life and conditions at Manzanar and offered personal narratives of the experience. A range of propaganda posters, films, pamphlets, and magazines portrayed the anger, prejudice, and overt racism of the times. Additional material from Adams’s contemporaries, Dorothea Lange and Toyo Miyatake, were highlighted.