Prevalence of Hope Over Despair


Photograph/Ansel Adams

This story was originally published in July 2015.

Captured by the renowned American photographer Ansel Adams, this photograph shows female captives practicing the art of calisthenics at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California. The image was featured in Adam’s book Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans (1944). After the infamous Pearl Harbour attack in Hawaii, USA during the Second World War, a wave of hostility emerged against American citizens of Japanese descent.

The public pressure led President Franklin D Roosevelt to sign the Executive Order 9066 in 1942. With its implementation, more than 1,00,000 people of Japanese origin were shifted from various western states of the USA to 10 relocation camps, that were spread across the country.

Ralph Merrit, the director of the concentration camp, had invited Adams to photograph the daily lives of Japanese American prisoners at Manzanar. Ansel’s intention was to portray how these people, who were suffering injustice, had not only triumphed over the sense of defeat and despair but also built a vital community in an oppressive environment. Adams had a dual purpose with his images. Firstly, he wanted to stress that the captives were good American citizens. This would help in reducing communal hatred. Additionally, he wanted to showcase their ability to cope up with the unjust situation.


Photograph/Dorothea Lange

Opposite Take, Same Environment
Dorothea Lange’s images of Manzanar were contrasting to those made by Adams. They focused on portraying the humiliation suffered by the confined American-Japanese prisoners.


Tags: USA, ansel adams, bp, July 2015, American photographer, calisthenics, Manzanar War Relocation Center, Hawaii, Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans (1944), Executive Order 9066, President Franklin D Roosevelt, 10 relocation camps, injustice, captives, oppressive, Doreothea Lange