The US Government Hired Dorothea Lange to Document the Japanese Internment, then Censored Her PhotosBreaking News
tags: photography, censorship, Japanese internment, Dorothea Lange
In February 1942, three months after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing "the forced removal of all persons deemed a threat to national security," allowing Japanese Americans, citizens or not, to be moved to "relocation centers."
For the next three years, 120,000 Japanese Americans were placed in concentration camps in the American West. The newly-minted War Relocation Authority (WRA) was responsible for handling all matters of internment — even public relations.
The WRA hired photographers, notably Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, to document the camps for the public.
Lange was well-known for her work during the Great Depression, most famously capturing the image titled "Migrant Mother."
Lange's photographs, however, were withheld from the public for the duration of the war and not widely circulated like Adams' were. While in the camps, Lange was not allowed to "photograph the wire fences, the watchtowers with searchlights, the armed guards or any sign of resistance."
Contrasting Adams' imagery, Lange captured the stark reality of life in the internment camps — long lines for meals, inadequate resources for children's education, and questionable living standards in renovated horse stables.
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