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Amache, Japanese-American Concentration Camp, Colorado, July 29, 1994 / A-3-10-3

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Amache, Japanese-American Concentration Camp, Colorado, July 29, 1994 / A-3-10-3

10 1/4 x 12 3/4 in. (26 x 32.4 cm)

Patrick Ryoichi Nagatani, American, (1945–2017)

Object Type: Fine and visual arts
Creation Place: North and Central America, United States, Colorado
Medium and Support: Chromogenic print
Credit Line: Gregory Allicar Museum of Art, CSU, gift of the artist, 2014.8.3
Accession Number: 2014.8.3
Japanese-American Concentration Camps (1993-1995)
For most of my adult life I have been aware of the historical, political, philosophical, and psychological issues that define the "relocation" or "concentration camp" experience in which 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of whom were American citizens, endured from 1942-1945 here in the United States of America. My parents, John Nagatani and Diane (Yoshimura) Nagatani were interned at Jerome and Manzanar.

During the last twenty-four years, I have been making art and my primary medium has been photography. The images that I make are essentially constructed in the studio. That is, I work within a "directorial mode" or arrangement for the camera. However, in a body of work about the "marriage" of the nuclear age within the historical and contemporary issues of New Mexico, I made site-specific landscape images that were reworked for a variety of metaphorical reasons. My original working process intent with the Japanese-American Concentration Camps project was to "make" pictures similar to the earlier Nuclear Enchantment work.

Because of the informational and experiential quality that we attribute to photographs, I have always felt that it is a medium that absorbs contextual information, deals with history and/or memory, and images usually yield complex readings that simultaneously intrigue the intellect as well as arouse visual analysis. The Japanese-American Concentration Camp work is comprised of over 124 images of the ten major camps as they exist after their closings fifty-two years ago. I have been compelled in making the work to observe, experience, and record in a "straight" and "formalistic documentary" style. Information, for me, being a paramount concern. Somewhere in the process, I desire depictions of the actual place and "truth".

My approach to the work has allowed me to be part historian, archaeologist, geologist, cartographer, photographer, and the Japanese-American sansei investigating what has been a part of my cultural identity. What I discovered was personally twofold. An experience of the present, what exists now in the landscape of the camps. The old foundations, decaying structures, rusting nails, concrete fish ponds, rock gardens, farmed fields, dirty-dry desert, unused concrete water tanks, cemeteries, recently erected plaques and monuments, the surrounding mountains, the weather, and the silence. In all of my visits much of the later part of the working process (after having made pictures) meant just looking at the ground or sitting. At Topaz, I found among the thousands of rusting nails, a flattened and rusted tin truck. Close by a fully intact trilobite (from the Paleozoic period) was discovered. The present and the past linked. I could not help experience, observe, and record without linking the past with the work. I am intrigued with how things must have been and what informed the landscape and experience for those 120,000 Japanese-Americans, victims of wartime hysteria and racism.

Landscape retains memory. I felt the individual and collective memories that were inherent to all the camps in one way or another. Every camp is vividly etched in my mind and the images that I have selected to print are in a very small manner a way to share this personal experience. This work has been for me experiential and sentimental. I realize now, after having been to the ten camps, the experience has been very important for me in further developing my own cultural identity. I dedicate this work to my parents and to the other 120,000 inmates, many who are still living, all having had to live at these places and whose memories I encountered.

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