Visiting Manzanar

In 1943 Ansel Adams photographed Manzanar, the War Relocation Center where Japanese-Americans were interred. I have published two versions of the book he wrote, Born Free and Equal, and a collection of all of his Manzanar photographs. You can find those books (and the others I’ve written) here.

Last Saturday I visited Manzanar, which is now a National Historic Site. There’s not much left other than building foundations and roadways, the restored Pleasure Park (but with no water), the cemetery, and the auditorium (now the visitor’s center, with an excellent museum), which was built after Adams’s visit.

But what you realize when you visit that you can’t get from the photos is that the place is huge, it’s hot (even in September), and it’s windy. I was uncomfortable walking around for an hour or so while I took photos. Living there must have been hellish. In Adams’s photos the people look comfortable enough, but his visit was in Winter, as you can see from the snow on the mountains.

Here are four photos I took along with corresponding Ansel Adams photos from 1943.