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portrait of Tōyō Miyatake by Ansel Adams, 1943
|Died||1979 (aged 84)|
Tōyō Miyatake (宮武東洋, Miyatake Tōyō; 1895–1979) was a Japanese American photographer, best known for his photographs documenting the Japanese American people and the Japanese American internment at Manzanar during World War II.
Miyatake was born in Kagawa, Shikoku, in Japan in 1895. In 1909 he migrated to the United States to join his father. He settled in the Little Tokyo section of Los Angeles, California.
With an interest in arts — most notably photography, which he studied under Harry K. Shigeta — Miyatake began associating with the local arts community. In 1923 he bought his photo studio. Miyatake encouraged fellow photographer Edward Weston to exhibit his work and Miyatake is credited as giving Weston his first gallery showing.
At the time Miyatake met his future wife, his brother was courting her. He began spending time with Hiro under the guise that he was using her as a model. His brother was crushed; it is said that he "died of a broken heart" at an early age.
Before World War II, Miyatake's photography won awards including the 1926 London International Photography Exhibition as he photographed various personalities.
With the outbreak of American involvement in World War II following the attack on Pear Harbor, Miyatake was incarcerated at the Manzanar internment camp in the Owens Valley along with his wife and four children, part of the internment of Japanese Americans during the war. He smuggled a camera lens into the camp and had a camera body constructed from wood, while an ally smuggled film and developing supplies to him from outside to allow him to take and develop photographs of the camp. Using this equipment he secretly took at photographs of the camp, working primarily in the early morning before most people were about, or at mealtimes, to avoid being seen photographing by the military police. Although he initially started his photography in secret, he approached Manzanar project director Ralph Merritt to ask to serve as official camp photographer. This would allow him to take photos to commemorate weddings and other official purposes, and to photograph Japanese volunteers who wanted photos for their families before they left for military service. Marritt agreed to this, but since at the time inmates were not allowed cameras, the proviso was made that Miyatake could set up the camera and frame the photograph, but the actual shutter release must be done by a white person. This condition was eventually lifted, and eight months after arriving at the camp, Matsumo was issued an ID card as the official concentration camp photographer, allowing him to take pictures at will, and sent for his photographic equipment from his (closed) studio in Los Angeles. He set up a studio at the camp as part of the internee-run Manzanar Consumer Cooperative.
At Manzanar, Miyatake met and began a longtime collaboration with Ansel Adams, who visited and photographed the camp in 1943. After the war, they showed their photographs in a collaborative exhibit, and published the book Two Views of Manzanar, featuring both his and Adams' photos of the camp.
Of the three major photographers who documented the camps, Adams, Miyatake, and Dorothea Lange, each ones work showed somewhat different aspects of the camps. Miyatake's work is described as showing "an intimacy with camp life absent in the pictures that Adams and Lange took."
After the war, the family returned to Los Angeles, where their home had been entrusted to some of their white friends during the incarceration. Unlike many families who lost their homes, the Miyatakes were able to resume their life and provide shelter to a few less fortunate incarcerees and their families. In post-war Little Tokyo, many residents were unable to afford Miyatake's services and some opted instead to barter goods to have him photograph weddings and portraits. With his wife Hiro running the front office, she once negotiated his services for a Steinway piano and another time, she negotiated for a litter of poodles.
He remained active in the studio throughout this period. In the early morning, Miyatake could be seen walking around Monterey Highlands Elementary School for exercise. The last image he captured on film was taken at this park. The film was discovered and processed after his death.
Children and grandchildren
All of Miyatake's children were involved in photography and the family business. Archie, the eldest son, ran the family studio after Tōyō's death in 1979. Robert Miyatake worked in the studio and later opened his own photographic color lab in South Pasadena, California. Richard (Tabo) worked in the family studio as well and left to work in photographic production. Youngest child and only daughter, Minnie, also worked in the studio performing clerical and business-related duties and currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Koyasan Buddhist Temple, where her father's remains are stored. Miyatake's grandson continues the family business to this day.
Toyo Miyatake Studio
In 2009, the film Toyo's Camera was released, documenting the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II through the perspective of the photographer's images. Narrated by George Takei, music by Kitaro.
His 1929 photograph of Michio Ito appeared on the cover of the Whitney Museum's Spring 2016 gallery guide.
Books by Miyatake
- Ansel Adams and Toyo Miyatake, Two Views of Manzanar, Los Angeles : Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, UCLA, c. 1978.
- (in Japanese) Shashinka Miyatake Tōyō no sekai: Renzu ga toraeta ningen no kiroku: 50-nen no nichibei-kōryū-shi (写真家宮武東洋の世界：レンズがとらえた人間の記録：50年の日米交流史). Tokyo: Bungeishunjū, 1980.
- (in Japanese) Miyatake Tōyō no shashin: 1923–1979 (宮武東洋の写真：1923～1979). Tokyo: Bungeishunjū, 1984.
- Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography also gives 宮武東洋男, but does not give the reading of this, or say which was registered as his legal name.
- "Toyo Miyatake", Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 6 Nov. 2019.
- Biographic Dictionary of Japanese Photography.
- Judith Fryer Davidov, Women's Camera Work: Self/body/other in American Visual Culture (Duke Univ. Press, 1998), p. 465.
- Adrian Florido, "Photos: 3 Very Different Views Of Japanese Internment", Code Switch, All Things Considered, National Public Radio, February 17, 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Nancy Matsumoto, "Documenting Manzanar - Part 15 of 18 (Toyo Miyatake), Discover Nikkei, October 2011. Retrieved 6 Nov. 2019.
- "Two Views Of Manzanar, FREDERICK S. WIGHT GALLERY, U.C.L.A., Art Forum, March 1979. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- Ansel Adams and Tōyō Miyatake (Editor: Graham Howe), Two Views of Manzanar: An Exhibition of Photographs, Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, UCLA (1978) ASIN: B001BST592
- "Toyo Miyatake Studio - Collections - Japanese American National Museum".
- "Toyo Miyatake Studios".
- Toyo's Camera, narrated by George Takei. Directed by Junichi Suzuki, produced by Junichi Suzuki, Erica Jones, Haruhiko Kanazawa, Masao Ohshima, and Shigeto Terasaka, Passion River Studio, released 11 April 2009 (Japan); January 5, 2010 (United States). Run Time: 98 minutes. ASIN: B002V3AM2K. (imbd link).
- "メイクで簡単にニキビ跡消す方法". Archived from the original on 2008-10-28.
- Whitney Museum Guide, Whitney Museum, New York City, Spring 2016.
- (in Japanese) Nihon no shashinka (日本の写真家) / Biographical Dictionary of Japanese Photography. Tokyo: Nichigai Associates, 2005. ISBN 4-8169-1948-1. Despite its alternative title in English, this book is in Japanese only.