Review of Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams's Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration

Seen and Unseen: What Dorothea Lange, Toyo Miyatake, and Ansel Adams’s Photographs Reveal About the Japanese American Incarceration
by Elizabeth Partridge; illus. by Lauren Tamaki
Intermediate, Middle School    Chronicle    132 pp.    g
10/22    978-1-4521-6510-3    $21.99

Numerous books have been written about the forced removal and imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII, but what sets this one apart is Partridge’s focus on how three different photographers visually documented their experiences in one camp: Manzanar. Dorothea Lange, already known for her body of work during the Great Depression, took pictures for the War Relocation Authority from March to July 1942; her empathy and awareness of injustice are apparent, but many of her photos were impounded by the army. Photographer Toyo Miyatake was himself imprisoned in Manzanar from 1942–1945; he smuggled camera parts in and was able to take candid shots of people in the community as well as a few photos of forbidden things like the guard towers. Ansel Adams, famed for photographing the natural beauty of California’s landscapes, came to Manzanar in fall 1943. He wanted his photos to show the prisoners as hard-working, cheerful, and resilient in preparation for their eventual release; but they suggest an overly idealized view. The other significant feature of this book is how the design incorporates the black-and-white photographs so organically that it often feels like an extended picture book. Tamaki’s ink and watercolor illustrations create a cohesive whole that encompasses both the text and historical artifacts, while extending and deepening the visceral qualities of the narrative. Extensive back matter covers, among other things, biographical vignettes; careful source notes and photo credits; and essays on citizenship, civil liberties, the model minority myth, and the use of terminology to describe the camps.

From the September/October 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.