Photography as an art is amazing, sometimes on picture can tell you more than a thousand words can say. And the picture that came from the camera of Dorothea Lange had no choice but to be this emotional. There were a lot of unfortunate events that were happening at those times all around the world. Many families would make their run for life and move to the country that offers them greater prospects, opportunities and quality of life. Some of them got what they were looking for, some of them being unfortunate about their ancestry had to pay much bigger price than they should have.
The image of my choice was taken in Mountain View, California on 18 April 1942 It is the image of Ryohitsu Shibuya and his family, he was successful chrysanthemum grower. This photograph was made by outstanding documentary photographer of that time Dorothea Lange. She highlighted immigration in different countries, she has many photos that just push the buttons in your heart whenever you see them. The photo was found in the National Archives under the Records of the War Relocation Authority through the Digital Vaults website.
The image portrays happy family with the picket fence house, first impression is that the family is leaving the American dream. People are happy posing in from of their beautiful house on the green grass in front of the newly planted trees. There is one unfortunate detail about it, this family is Japanese. There is nothing wrong about being Japanese, but not at that time. Just days after this picture was taken, the whole family was taken to the Hear Mountain Relocation center in Wyoming under United Sates executive order 9066. This order was issued and made active at the end of February 1942 issued by Frankling D. Roosevelt during the World War II. The people of Japanese ancestry, which at that time included Koreans as they were under Japanese rule, had to be moved to internment camps. These was done out of the fear that these immigrant out of patriotic feeling during the war would rebel to US from within. This was applied to the most of the West Coast and south of Arizona, in Hawaii where population of Japanese was 37% only high risk individuals were detained. The Shibuya when finally released from the internment camp not only lost 3 years of their lives but also a family member Ms. Shibuya. This image was taking days before this family’s life, that it seemed has gotten on the right track.
This image seems like a normal family portrait in front of their beautiful house. This picture is just like any other picture of a happy family, being proud of their accomplishments and of each other. It seems like they moved into the house not too long ago, but long enough to settle in. The lawn in front of the house is green and beautiful, but the tree is very young, planted not that long ago, it still needs support, not able to grow on its own. According to the photo description this family had a great and beautiful business, growing flowers, new home and have success fully rooted itself in the local community. In this case it is not just picture that strikes the most, it is a combination of picture and description, as the family seems rather happy on the picture in the great setting, before the drastic changes in their lives.
I believe that this image is a great illustration for that period of time. People say, you never appreciate things to the fullest until they lose them. On the picture we see a happy family who is about to lose it all in a moment. The worst part is, they know how to lose everything, they know how it is to uproot all their lives and move to a better place, a better country, where they will feel protected and secure. The country they invested their faith in betrayed them, betrayed the on a scare, without any solid proof that those actions were totally necessary. This picture portrays family in a new setting , a new country, which is going to ruin their trust in just few days from now, this picture is just like a calm before the storm. The mood of the picture is quite complicated if to look at it closely. On the picture the mother is not smiling, it has been 2 month since the executive order was released and accepted, and she is probably worried about the fate of her kids and if her family will fall under that executive order. The older children in the picture probably have their own families or just their own lives, young children who are living with parents are not smiling as well. I can only speculate here, but probably they hear a lot of their parents talking about the possibility of coming events, and they are sad as they are completely not ready to leave their parent’s house.
It is not that they were taking jobs away from the currently existing residents; on the contrary they came and brought something new, they just took a niche in the flower business. Maybe if this family would live on the East Coast they would have avoided this terrible fate. This was clear example of government promoting the racism on a litter scare, as a result of their initiative. As later concluded the unjustified actions caused by "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership." The executive order 9066 was opposed by the head of FBI Edgar Hover, as he believed that all the spies were caught and Japanese people posed no threat to the country. Another person that opposed the executive order 9066 was the first lady, the wife of the president, she had number of private conversations with him on this matter, but those we unsuccessful. One man panic on the street remains a one man panic. One man panic at the White House, particularly when the one man is a president, quickly becomes nationwide panic with enormous consequences. And after 40 years there were $20 000 compensations paid out to the remaining survivors. However, no compensation will cover the cost of lost years and a loss of family member.
There are many talented people who have dedicated their lives to capturing important moments, be they of extreme joy or devastating grief, strong confusion or emergence of a great idea. Those people were there to capture the most important historical events, and not only though their shots of politicians and other major influences on the society. But the average people, people on the streets, who were directly influenced by those decisions that were made by governments. Those pictures are there for us to learn from them, avoid mistakes that were made before. Even thou up to this day there aren’t many stories of successful analysis of past mistakes and implementing the knowledge to prevent the future. Let’s hope that this graphic evidence of past mistakes will come to use one day.
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