June 8, 2010
I've been reading Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment edited by Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro. The book contains more than a hundred photos Lange took before and during the Japanese internment.
There are so many moving images in this book I don't even know where to begin, but there are two images in particular that stick with me. The first is the gardens that the internees (prisoners, if we're not going to gentle it) grew outside the compounds where they lived. There's something so hopeful about a garden, and I'm just not sure that, if my country forced me from my home, made me give up my business and posessions, and live in dank, crowded horse stall for an indeterminate amount of time, I'd feel that kind of hope.
Those gardens speak to the prisoners' will to keep going, make a life, claim some small piece of independence. I am in awe of that tenacity.
The other photo that makes my spine tingle is one of two little boys sitting next to each other at a lunch table before the evacuation. It's not the photo so much as it is knowing what happens after. These little buddies are nearly eighty years old now. I wonder if they ever saw each other again.
"San Francisco, California. Lunch hour at the Raphael Weill Public School" Dorothea Lange