A talk with with Former State Sen. Jill N. Tokuda has been named as the new executive director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center about the opening of the Hawaii premiere of the “TOYO: Behind the Glass Eye,” exhibition of photographs by Toyo Miyatake (some rarely seen by the public) on Saturday, February 16 at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.
The exhibit will open with a talk by Alan Miyatake (grandson) and Hirokazu Kosaka, Master Artist in Residence of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center on Saturday, February 16 at 1:30 p.m. Reservations are required. Please call (808) 244-6862 to reserve your seat.
The exhibit juxtaposes selected examples of Miyatake’s pre-World War II art photography with his images of life in Manzanar internment camp, one of 10 internment camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated between December 1942-1945.
Toyo Miyatake (1895-1979) was born in Kagawa prefecture in Japan. He came to the United States in 1909 with his mother and two brothers to rejoin his father who had left Japan two years earlier.
He became interested in photography, opened the Toyo Miyatake Studio in October, 1923, and would go on to win critical acclaim and prizes in many exhibitions, including the 1926 London International Photography Exhibition.
Executive Order 9066 forced Miyatake, his wife and four children, into the internment camp at Manzanar in 1942. He managed to smuggle a camera lens and film plate holder into the camp against government orders and secretly photograph camp life. He got film into camp by way of a hardware salesman and former client. Eventually Miyatake asked the camp director if he could set up a photo studio and got permission to do so with the provision that he could load and set the camera but a Caucasian assistant would snap the shutter. Later that restriction was lifted and Miyatake was designated official camp photographer and granted the freedom to take photos of everyday life at Manzanar.
Miyatake retired in 1960 but continued to carry a camera with him every day. His reputation grew both in Los Angeles and abroad and he was decorated with the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government in 1976.
After his death in 1979, his contributions to the Little Tokyo community were marked in 2011 with the naming of a street after him, now called Toyo Miyatake Way, and the installation of a bronze relief of the photographer. He is the subject of two documentary films, Infinite Shades of Gray (2001), and Toyo's Camera (2008).