Photo Essay: Manzanar Relocation Center through Dorothea Lange's Lens
Best known for her iconic Depression-era image Migrant Mother, photographer Dorothea Lange—on assignment for the War Relocation Authority (WRA)—spent months chronicling the forced removal and internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
The majority of Lange’s photos did not conform to the WRA’s aim of showing a positive side of the incarceration, and for this reason many of her hundreds of images were impounded. Unfortunately, the WRA retained the right to caption images submitted by their photographers, often altering the truth—a manipulation that affected Lange after she completed her assignment.
In a letter to her friend and colleague Ansel Adams (who also photographed life at Manzanar), Lange wrote, “I fear the intolerance and prejudice is constantly growing. We have a disease. It’s Jap-baiting and hatred. You have a job on your hands to do to make a dent in it—but I don’t know a more challenging nor more important one. I went through an experience I’ll never forget when I was working on it and learned a lot, even if I accomplished nothing.”
Scroll down for a glimpse of what Lange saw during her time at Manzanar Relocation Center.
“I went through an experience I’ll never forget when I was working on it and learned a lot, even if I accomplished nothing.”Dorothea Lange