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“It’s really quite astonishing how often, in looking at some of the works of these Japanese American photographers, how simple the subject is, and yet how graceful its rendition is.”

At the turn of the 20th century, the Japanese population in Los Angeles was growing rapidly. At the same time, photography was becoming more affordable, accessible, and popular. Scores of Japanese Americans were avid photographers in this period, and by 1926 the community was active enough in LA to form a club, the Japanese Camera Pictorialists of California, centered in the Little Tokyo neighborhood. However, as the US entered WWII and the military displaced and incarcerated Japanese Americans from the West Coast, their community splintered. These photographers were forced to leave behind their cameras, negatives, and photographs, many of which were destroyed. As a result, much of the history of this group was lost or forgotten for decades, until the early 1980s, when art historian Dennis Reed began working with Japanese American families to preserve and display these artworks.

Getty recently acquired 79 photographs by Japanese Americans from the Dennis Reed collection as well as 75 additional photographs from the families of these artists. In this episode, Virginia Heckert, curator in Getty’s Department of Photographs, discusses these works and the history of this artistic circle.

More to explore:

Japanese-American Photographs, 1920–1940 Google Arts & Culture exhibition

JAMES CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, President of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
VIRGINIA HECKERT: It’s really quite astonishing how often, in looking at some of the works of th...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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