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.”
The entire photographic collection is available on-line through the Library of Congress.
Last updated: December 11, 2015