Ansel Adams Gallery
Ansel Adams was over-age for the draft in 1942, but he wanted to participate in the war effort. Because he was friends with Manzanar camp Director Ralph Merritt, Adams was invited to document the internees and life at camp. Adams made a number of trips to Manzanar in 1943 and 1944. He keenly felt the injustice of the exclusion order against the Japanese Americans. When told he could not photograph the guard towers, Adams took photographs from the towers, giving away their existence.
A collection of Adams’ Manzanar photographs was published in 1944 under the title, Born Free and Equal. It was not well received by wartime America and in fact was controversial. In 1965 Adams donated the camp photographs to the Library of Congress where they languished, little known, for years. He died in 1984 not knowing what, if anything, would become of his Manzanar pictures which he felt, “…from a social point of view that’s the most important thing I’ve done or can do, as far as I know.”
Spotted Dog Press in Bishop, California, redesigned and republished Born Free and Equal in 2001. It includes Adams’ original text and most of the photographs from the 1944 edition. This book is available for sale in the Manzanar History Association bookstore and other stores. The entire photographic collection is available on-line through the Library of Congress.
Did You Know?
Before World War II, Manzanar was an orchard community. The name “Manzanar” is Spanish for apple orchard.