Manzanar

When people ask me who my favorite photographers are, my answer is always the same: Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange. This photograph is a big part of the reason why.

Lange is most famous for her portrait of a struggling migrant mother in California during the Great Depression. Less well known, though, is her work documenting the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II.

The photograph below haunts me, and I can't look at it without feeling simultaneous grief, shame, and rage. Substitute the flag with a different one, and the photo could easily be of a different place on a different continent during the same war.

As Americans today debate the semantic differences between prison camps and concentration camps, Lange’s work stands all the more important.

Dorothea Lange; July 3, 1942, Manzanar, California  Original caption: Manzanar, California. Dust storm at this War Relocation Authority center where evacuees of Japanese ancestry are spending the duration.    Copyright: This image is public domain as a work of the United States federal government.

Dorothea Lange; July 3, 1942, Manzanar, California

Original caption: Manzanar, California. Dust storm at this War Relocation Authority center where evacuees of Japanese ancestry are spending the duration.

Copyright: This image is public domain as a work of the United States federal government.