"In the 1920s and 30s, LA, San Francisco and Seattle were home to a vibrant community of photographers. These cities were also home to a rapidly growing population of Japanese immigrants. By the 1920s, an increasing number identified as Japanese American and forged a unique cultural identity in places like LA’s Little Tokyo — it was in this context that a new movement of Japanese American pictorialist photography emerged. Prewar Japanese American Pictorialism is at Laurence Miller Gallery, New York until 22 January 2022.
Due to the tremendous loss of material and documentation from the era, the contributions of Japanese Americans to the development of art photography in the US were vastly underestimated in early histories. In recent decades, devoted research by individuals such as the writer, collector, and curator Dennis Reed have made immense contributions to improving our understanding of this previously neglected period.
The attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 upended the lives of innumerable Japanese Americans. With the passage of the Enemy Alien Act, cameras were considered contraband when found in the possession of Japanese Americans. Beginning in 1942, more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated at internment camps. Troves of photographic material and archives were lost and destroyed amid this persecution."